The term public relations got off to a rocky start. Although it has traveled leaps and bounds since its inception, some still view public relations as little more than deceptive promotions using less-than-ethical means. Perhaps, at one point in time, there was some truth behind such rash assumptions. Now, however, PR is one of the most burgeoning industries in the corporate world. And for good reason. As the art of public relations becomes more mainstream and accepted, it is held on a higher pedestal than ever before. As people become ever savvier and more demanding, so does public relations. Time and time again, positive public relations have proven to be instrumental in changing a company’s image. Celebrities, athletes, and politicians all rely on PR specialists to ensure their popularity amongst the masses. This trend is filtering down to smaller associations, as well. Now, it seems any company wanting to succeed and stay afloat in the tumultuous sea of competitive business has to clamor onto the PR lifeboat.
But does a bed and breakfast really need to get involved? Surely an establishment so small could never benefit from such efforts – a skeptic would make such claims. However, with an ever-increasing globe of marketing and advertising infiltrating every facet of our everyday lives, not understanding the finer nuances of public relations could ultimately prove disastrous.
For starters, let’s define what exactly constitutes public relations, as it’s a relatively new and unfamiliar term to many. Wiping the negative scrutiny aside, public relations is the trajectory of enhancing and maintaining a particular image for virtually anything or anyone seeking public affirmation. This is done through a variety of conduits ranging from social media engagement (a healthy flow of information regularly passed along through Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.) to crisis communication (defending and protecting an organization’s reputation from the circulation of negative press).
While a PR specialist would inevitably handle the image of a multinational corporation differently than that of a bed and breakfast, there are still similarities that must be acknowledged and considered.
First and foremost, a bed and breakfast needs business. How are you going to get guests to stay at your inn? How are you going to get these guests to become repeat guests? How are you going to get repeat guests to recommend your property to others? If you’ve thought through any of these questions before, you are already involving yourself in the wide, wide world of public relations. A PR specialist would ask himself these same questions. He’d then research the questions and go on to create a functional plan designed to masterfully answer them. He would execute the plan in a logical manner. And if he’s any good, he will reap the rewards. This cycle of public relations is an exciting one. It’s different every time. There’s no set structure. Each case is different; hence the implementation of a useful plan will undoubtedly be different, as well.
You, as a bed and breakfast owner indisputably wear many hats and juggle many tasks. You’ve got to be able to cook up a sumptuous breakfast, interact cordially with a wide range of people, be a designer, an entrepreneur, a craftsman, and a fixer-upper. Now you can add “PR specialist” to that list. Since you probably aren’t going to go out and hire a corporate PR firm to handle the public relations details of your property, the role of a competent PR specialist comes to rest with you, as well. Don’t let that deter you, though! There are a lot of simple ways of significantly increasing the perception of your property to the public.
Ask yourself the following questions and think through them meticulously. Then, create your own plan to better your inn’s perceived image.
- What is one thing I want people to know about my inn?
- What channels of communication are available to me to inform people about this “one thing”?
- What types of individuals do I want to portray this information to?
- How can I tailor this message to suit my target audience?
From there, design a campaign specifically geared towards answering these questions. This will involve a lot of research. Research, research, research. By the end of your examinations you may start believing that PR no longer stands for “public relations” but rather “painful research.” This examination is what will be of the most worth in the long run.
After you’ve done your research, go and carry out your campaign. Pitch a press release (stay tuned for next week’s article on writing press releases) to garner media coverage (newspapers, TV, websites, specialized magazines, travel trade publications, editorials, etc.). Meet with editors either in person or over the phone. Plan follow-up meetings. This is one occasion in which persistence will truly pay off.
Once your efforts are realized, the public will begin to take notice of the strong endorsement your bed and breakfast is receiving and you, in turn, will find more opportunities and business awaiting you than ever before.