Bed and Breakfast centered Public Relations
While I can’t claim to be a top-notch public relations expert, I did have the good fortune once upon a time of landing an internship with one of the top PR agencies out there. Consequently, I was able to directly witness specific case studies unfold and come to understand the great importance of successfully working with the media, regardless of a company’s background—even within the bed and breakfast industry. Time and time again, struggling bed and breakfast owners bellyache their hard luck and blame their misfortunes upon extenuating circumstances. Yet, these bed and breakfast owners tend to be the same ones who absolutely refuse to jump on the public relations bandwagon. Public relations, although a relatively new field, is fast becoming a multi-billion dollar industry in and of itself. Smart companies are rushing to improve their rapport with clients and potential clients by hiring PR professionals to do the work for them. And it’s paying off!
Smaller, specialized PR firms are cropping up, including bed and breakfast specific agencies. Maynely Marketing and Sandra Betner PR are both geared toward high-end inns and tourism. Granted, these services can be pricey—be warned. Yet, if you aren’t feeling up to the workload and commitment of garnering favorable results yourself, it may be wise to consult them or any number of other B&B specific agencies.
So, let’s talk about what PR can do for you and your bed and breakfast—whether you choose to pursue a professional PR agency or dabble in it yourself.
There is a little something called “pitching”—an invaluable aspect of public relations. What is pitching, you ask? In short, it’s a succinct, gripping, and well-written story sent to the media that is capable of linking your publicity needs with a journalist’s own rational self-interest.
Pitching is a succinct, gripping, and well-written story sent to the media that is capable of linking your publicity needs with a journalist’s own rational self-interest.
As frustrating as the media can sometimes be, it is a priceless resource to PR professionals and their clients (i.e. your bed and breakfast). Planning the pitch conscientiously and precisely may seem like an obvious introduction into communicating with the media, but I have been surprised how often such planning doesn’t end up happening. According to media relations maven, Margo Mateas, establishing a solid plan beforehand (including thorough research and commitment) is vital.
Other invaluable aspects of PR writing and pitching includes “speaking in bullet points,” a trick I wish I had discovered long ago. Don’t draw out every dreary detail. Stick with the rudimentary, important points. Likewise, be sure to lead with the hook. Rather than beating around the bush, it is absolutely imperative to bring up the most relevant and engrossing aspect of the story immediately.
Lastly, give a strong call to action at the conclusion of your pitch. Expect the journalist to whom you pitched to use the material you provide. Give him/her a way to contact you. End each pitch with a strong closing statement in which the word “if” is replaced with “when.” (For example, say “I look forward to answering any further questions at your earliest convenience. I’ll be in contact with you soon!” instead of “If you care to, please give me a call and I can give you more details.”
After you’ve sent out the pitch, follow-up! This can’t be stressed emphatically enough. Don’t expect the reporter to get back to you. If you do, you’ll be waiting around for a mighty long while. Since reporters are perpetually facing tight deadlines, it’s important and worthwhile to call them in the morning. In speaking with the reporters, never explain to them something they already know. Their egos are fragile—they don’t have the time or patience or self-esteem to be treated like a child.
If you want to pitch an old idea, make sure there is a new angle/spokesperson/etc. Otherwise, what’s the point of even bringing it up? Making reporters feel as though they’re getting an exclusive sneak-peek at something new and exciting is a useful strategy in getting press coverage. Everybody enjoys feeling like a VIP from time to time. Similarly, client meet-ups and get-together-lunches are outstanding ideas to target pitches to specific journalists. Remain scrupulous, however. Don’t sell your soul or your ethics for a story. Don’t ever allow a journalist to bribe you. Likewise, don’t ever attempt to bribe a journalist. Strict codes of ethics are put into place amongst PR professionals and journalists for this very reason.
One last helpful hint: don’t only get in touch with a journalist when you need something. A lot of PR specialists do just that and it’s tawdry and uncouth. Don’t forget about the existence of a journalist until the time comes to pitch an idea to that specific journalist. Occasional (not overbearing) contact is always nice. It’s great to build a relationship of trust with a journalist. In the bed and breakfast industry, you may want to focus on journalists who specifically write for lifestyle, travel, and other leisure sections of a newspaper or magazine. Journalists are inundated with PR spam from all over the place. So, if you have a special “in” with a journalist, the chances of her willingness to entertain your ideas increases exponentially.
On a side note: Pitching stories to bloggers is a relatively new concept to me, but one that is also exciting and innovative—particularly within the bed and breakfast community. I vigorously believe that all forms of social media should be embraced for the highest possible rates of PR success. Approaching a pitch to a blogger is much the same as pitching to a journalist.