We spoke to Michael Straus, co-owner of Straus Home Ranch in California, to discover how he is reaping the benefits of taking his hotel’s PR operations into his own hands
StrausHomeRanch.com is an organic farm vacation rental in the San Francisco Bay Area. Michael spent the last 20 years as a PR professional, including launching his boutique agency specializing in sustainable practices, and creating a nationally-syndicated radio show. He created hundreds of millions of media impressions for his clients, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for non-profits (NGOs) by telling their stories to the media.
How do you run your PR operation?
With so many wonderful vacation rentals in our region, one way in which we stand out is that we know how to work with journalists in developing stories – brainstorming interesting new angles (appropriate for their media outlets and audiences), providing resources (such as experts, photographs, statistics) and being extremely responsive (making the process as seamless and streamlined as possible). In short, we’re not ‘selling’ a story; rather, we help journalists. In so doing, we open the door to sharing unique aspects of our own story.
What have you achieved as a result of doing your own PR rather than specific advertising?
We’ve only just opened in June, but already have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for a big feature, and my sense is that we’ll have a lot more media coverage in the coming months – a huge amount of ‘free’ exposure just by tapping into a media market hungry for interesting content.
Why has PR been a success for you?
Like most small businesses, we don’t have big advertising and marketing budgets. Public Relations is not only a more affordable marketing avenue but, in my experience, generates a lot more trust and good will, in large part because of the implied 3rd party endorsement – that is, somebody ELSE is singing our praises, which, in the end, feels a lot more credible than any advertisement, no matter how creative.
How much money do you think PR has saved you roughly?
Well, we haven’t ‘saved’ because there’s no way we could have every afforded to buy equivalent advertising. Over the years, we generated millions of dollars worth of free media for our clients. For Straus Home Ranch, I’d guesstimate that we’ll get tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in media exposure in 2014.
What would you say to boutique hotels sceptical about doing PR?
Hey, if you’ve got money to burn on advertising, go for it. But if, like most of us, you’re struggling to stand out in a crowded playing field, there’s absolutely no substitute for creativity. And public relations – including working with journalists, creating and participating in unique events, and innovating at the hotel itself such as with sustainable building techniques or community-oriented events – only helps build credibility, respect, and business referrals. In essence, PR can be one of THE most effective and cost-effective strategies available for your operation.