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In: Social Media

Jennifer HawkinsJennifer Hawkins

Now that the travel industry is rebounding – and even thriving domestically in most cases – the focus for PR professionals in the travel industry has now shifted to keeping clients afloat and helping them settle into a stand out from the crowded market. The media landscape has also changed significantly in the past two years. So how should PR agencies move forward and advise clients in the ever-evolving travel industry? With a two-pronged strategy that is both granular and great, but always based on flexibility and creativity.

We’ve seen a lot of changes lately for those focusing their reporting on the travel and lifestyle sphere. On location in NYC and LA, there has never been such fierce competition for the attention of editors, staff writers, freelancers and influencers. Liberated by video conferencing and the seismic reappraisal of the office workplace, the media—like all American businesses—have become virtual or hybrid and no longer tied to a publisher’s headquarters. This “work from anywhere” mentality has diminished the convenience of desk visits, those long-held means to spread news, build relationships, and connect clients face-to-face with editors and tastemakers.

While desk pages are still effective, PR reps must be prepared to meet editorial people where and when they want. They also need to be sure their customers have the goods — powerful news, innovative and genuinely creative programming, and industry-shattering trends — that will encourage the media to even say “yes” to join forces.

There’s a similar challenge in hosting PR-driven events. In April 2019, our team hosted a Spring Hospitality Showcase to wow editors with one-stop customer news. Our teams offered message-driven customer interactive features, from learning how to pour a Guinness from the bartender flown in from Dublin’s The Shelbourne, to Mongolian vodka tastings accompanied by a renowned Morin Khuur violinist and a state-of-the-art ” Wellness bed” that allows the media to actually test the groundbreaking sleep technology.

From the moment it ended we couldn’t wait for our next showcase, but now we have to seriously reconsider. Client events have become risky ventures, with fierce competition and guest lists that tend to run out. Additionally, many publications now rely on freelancers who are geographically dispersed and diversified to cover myriad subjects. Result? With travel now back on the table, travel journalists are keen to experience Guinness in Dublin, which is one of the best – albeit sometimes costly – ways to showcase your hotel or resort.

There is also fierce competition when it comes to attracting participants to press trips. It seems every major author and outlet is invited to go anywhere! We have advised our clients on creating outstanding itineraries that go beyond the hotel and offer unique access to events, restaurants and cultural events, often recommending them to work with other like-minded brands, chefs or event organizers with the goal, not just the enjoyment of the traveling journalists, but also the depth of the resulting reporting.

Overcrowded press travel plans are now a thing of the past for so many freelance travel journalists. It’s better to give them at least a little wiggle room in the schedule to pursue additional and deeper stories. Flexibility is now also required when it comes to assignments, as many freelancers only introduce editors after they have returned home. Clients should be prepared for these new truths in pre-trip conversations so there are no surprises or disappointments when they arrive. But it’s always up to the PR rep to have these transparent conversations up front with the journalist and the client alike.

While traditional PR pitches and strategies will continue to deliver results in their own way, we see the future of travel PR through a highly integrated marketing and communications lens. FINN Partners brings together full-service capabilities, specialized expertise and national and global presence to serve clients across the spectrum, from start-ups, boutique properties and multinational luxury hotel groups we know so well, to lifestyle brands and major travel destinations.

Our agency takes a 360-degree approach to developing our clients’ strategies. Simply put, we go beyond the appeal of traditional media, using social media, influencer relationships and the development of creative content such as photography and video to weave their stories together on owned and deserved channels. Our communications plans now include a diversified range of services to provide customers with connectivity across as many channels as possible.

Take social media: every PR firm understands its importance, but few are actually capable of designing and executing social media strategies for clients. Most instead rely on third parties to develop a social strategy that they hope will align with customer messaging. Building an in-house social media studio—a team of social media content creators and community experts—was a much more effective tactic for our team, as it allows us to keep costs reasonable while still promoting our creativity and our community to demonstrate ingenuity.

Now, in addition to PR experts, our agency has an in-house team dedicated to content creation, made up of bright young talents who are both fluent in social media and excited about the opportunities to pursue their personal passions in everything from photography and videography to to graphics to bring design and copywriting into practice. By customizing our own social media services, our agency is able to craft messages to resonate with clients’ customers and create personality-driven content through photos and videos that bring to life the luxury and experiences they offer.

Our social media work also keeps our talents engaged and engaged in something they enjoy, and gives us the know-how to leverage to develop new perspectives and provide services that give us an edge. Big pluses all round, especially when we recruit new clients and employees.

Of course, staying up to date with social media and other communication strategies is a lot of work. But as our expertise grows, it opens the door for us to better indulge clients with services like copywriting, influencer relationships, and content development, and build brand followings by nurturing clients as thought leaders. Despite our growth, we still operate like the boutique firm we started decades ago to flexibly maneuver clients and properly price services for brands large and small. And with so much change ahead, the travel industry we love so much could use all the advice we can give.


Jennifer Hawkins is Managing Partner and NY Travel Practice Leader, Finnish partners.

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