MASTERCLASS: Press Stays – the best approach

Press Stays 2

Done right and the value of offering a genuine blogger, journalist or influencer a stay at your hotel could be huge and result in a powerful endorsement. So how can hotels best approach this tactic to order to maximise from giving away an experience? David Barrett, managing director of Pic PR, explains.

 

One of the most common questions we get asked by hoteliers is about our approach to press stays…or more to the point, how they, as a boutique luxury hotel, should go about press stays.

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Firstly, and coming from the viewpoint of a PR professional here, a press stay will always deliver the best piece of press coverage for you and your establishment. Because the journalist is staying with you, all (or the majority) of their review/write-up will be about your hotel, and its location. It’s not a round-up piece, e.g. ‘The 50 best hotels for a romantic Winter break’ where you get a mention at best. It will be pretty much all about you.

So, you can see how important press stays are.

It amazes me therefore that hotels still don’t understand the value a good quality press stay can bring. Yes, I get that hotels are running a business, and giving away a room for the night is a slight loss of revenue. But it is just that, a slight loss – a small price to pay, as it were, for what could be a powerful piece of editorial coverage, and a powerful endorsement.

Let me explain…if one of the leading travel journalists stayed with you from one of the Nationals (Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph etc), and they write a huge positive piece about their stay, that could potentially bring in lots and lots of bookings in the future…what’s the cost to you? – a few pennies for the room, some food, and a bottle of wine. That’s it.

Plus, on top of this…to advertise in a National newspaper (and I tend not to measure PR activity against advertising, but just to illustrate this point a bit further), especially the weekend travel sections, can cost thousands, and I do mean thousands…we’re talking £5k, £8k, £10k even more. And that’s just for a page! So, the financial benefits that a quality press stay can bring are pretty obvious.

What’s more, if your press stay review/follow-up piece of coverage (again…lets think Sunday Times or Sunday Telegraph) goes online too (as well as print)…this will have a massive impact on enhancing your SEO, and getting you found on Google, especially if within the online piece they link back to your own site.

I mentioned earlier how all you need to do is give away a room for the night, pay for some food/drink etc. This is something that is expected. It’s an unwritten rule I guess, between journalist and hotel. The last thing you should be doing is charging the journalist (who you’ve invited to stay with you, in order for them to write about you) full rate. If anything (and as much as you can), their stay should be complimentary. And they must be looked after (hamper in their room on arrival with a personalised note, a private tour of the hotel and grounds). You could perhaps look at charging a media rate for their second or third night if they’re wanting to stay longer than just the one night. Oh, and do cover their plus 1 too. It’s most likely that they will want to bring somebody with them (generally their partner), and more often than not it will be a weekend stay (journalists are expected to do these in their own time – and are needed in the office most of the working week).

One piece of big advice is to be selective. You don’t need to go nuts with press stays, and have journalists in every week. Picking out the top journalists, the one’s you respect, who you know your guests read/admire etc, and inviting them yourself or asking your PR agency to invite them is the best way to go. And make sure you scatter the stays, so that when the coverage appears it will also be scattered. For our hotel clients we aim for one top journalist to stay a month.

One thing to think about, and something we get asked all the time…there is no absolute guarantee that you will get press coverage from an organised press stay, and there is no guarantee that it won’t all be positive when it does appear. After all, journalists won’t be doing their job properly if they weren’t giving a fair account of their stay. But…the unwritten rule with press stays, is that if you look after the journalist, and make sure they have a great stay, then more often than not (99% of the time) they will write a great piece.

When I talk about press stays, I also include bloggers within this activity (and other online influencers). However, be careful when inviting bloggers. Check their blog, their social media followings. There are a lot of bloggers out there, some of which sadly are just looking for a free stay (and one of the main reasons they set-up a blog), but there are some very good bloggers out there too, who are very influential and have a huge online fan-base, so concentrate your efforts on them. Aim for the big boys as it were.

Now, press stays are very much seen as a PR tactic, and therefore managed and looked after by the PR agency, because the PR agency ‘has the contacts.’ Truth is…they may have the contacts, or they may not. But at the end of the day, a journalist is only going to come and stay with you if you’ve invited them, there’s something different about you, something new etc etc. So if you haven’t got a PR agency, you still should be doing press stays – it’s not a complicated process, but it can be time consuming. And if anything out of the PR mix, press stays is the one must do activity.

As I’ve just mentioned, if planning press stays yourself, or is an activity that is currently managed in-house, it can be time consuming. So, at Pic PR we’re currently working on an exciting new project to help independent boutique hotels (those who don’t have the budgets for a full-on PR agency) organise their own press stays, and help journalists (from across the world) visit new and different venues (which they need to be doing, because it’s what their readers want). I can’t say too much about this yet. But it will be launching at the end of the year, so if you’re interested just visit www.PressStays.com to register your interest. And more details will follow.

One other trick, look at inviting a number of journalists/bloggers at once. So more a press trip/event as it were. Always good to do in quiet periods (November, January). You can create a special press event for example, where they get to try exclusively the new menu put on by your new chef. If doing something like this…invite press/bloggers from different outlets. So for instance…a lifestyle mag, a wedding mag, a parenting website, a trade publication etc etc. Although they’ll be coming at once, their coverage will be appearing in very different outlets, plus there’s no awkwardness either if you’ve got two competing titles sitting next to each other at the meal table!

Finally, once you’ve had a great review. Milk it! Take the quotes from the article and put on your website, social media, newsletters.

So, to summarise…press stays are by far the best way (still and always will be) to get the best press coverage. Do them. They can seriously grow your business. But be selective. With the right approach, you’ll be attracting more of the right customers.

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