The rise of the influencer and dominance of social media not only presents new challenges for the PR industry, but means in order to survive agencies must learn how to effectively communicate with decision makers. PRCA Travel and Tourism Chairman Frank Marr, Creative Director of A Marr + Associates moderated a panel discussion on the perception of PR within in the travel industry and understanding the decision making process. The panel of industry experts included: Louise Newton, Group Head of Marketing at Hotel Plan UK, John Harrington Deputy Editor, PR Week Magazine, Tine Murn, Founder, MindBrand and Wendy Pedder, Marketing Manager, Visit Guernsey. After an insightful evening of discussion, here are five things we learnt about how travel PRs can effectively engage with key decision makers.
1. Great ideas, not big budgets -As John Harrington discussed, PR can easily compete with advertising agencies and other disciplines, as strong campaigns are based not on big budgets but unique, well-constructed ideas. Louise Newton also stressed the importance of not solely focusing on pitching calendars for seasonal promotions, which is often seen as a key method for coverage generation.
2. PR & influencing decision-making - While advertising and sales still have important roles to play within the marketing mix, PR fulfills many more of the key modern marketing disciplines. Through PRs managing areas such as crisis communications to content creation and the need for ‘big ideas.’ As Wendy Pedder from Visit Guernsey stated, PRs are tasked with establishing a reliable source of information for a destination and therefore senior decision makers shouldn’t overlook PRs.
3. Managing results - PR is all about story telling, which often leaves it vulnerable to how results are measured. Directors are still looking at the key analytics and statistics to prove that a campaign or budgets are effective. Louise Newton also mentioned the management of work is key; backlinks are often not seen as a priority by PRs, which sees the handwork not achieving maximum effectiveness.
4. The perception of PR – PR has become more important in the eyes of decision makers. It continues to become more integrated into the needs of the marketing mix and the future of the discipline has never looked so promising according to John Harrington. The importance for organisations to have a solid crisis communication strategy has been reinforced by recent PR blunders with Pepsi.
5. Budgets distributed to agency for private vs public sector are very different - As tourism consultant Tine Murn suggested, PR agencies should be aware that often government budgets could become available at the most inconvenient time! Therefore PR agencies need to adapt to the way they are dealing with and distributing budgets. For example, getting £1 at the wrong time is much more difficult than getting £10000 at the right time. Compared to private sector organisations, which all differ depending on the control of the finance departments and the level of autonomy given to senior members.