Hospitality PR's Evolution Into Activation

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | February 12, 2017

Back in the day – a little more than a century ago – what later became known as public relations had its genesis on Broadway and in Hollywood with the rise of press agents. Characterized as enthusiastic, energetic proponents of plays, movies and actors, these press agents nonetheless were stereotyped as scrappy, fast-talking hawkers (with dubious fashion sense!). The term "flack" was coined after Gene Flack, a notable theater agent of the day. The mission of these individuals was to sell tickets and gain celebrity for the talent they represented. The did so, using tactics from the ridiculous to the sublime.

PR as a profession took hold in the early 1900s thanks to pioneers including Edward Bernays who began to hone his craft while employed in Woodrow Wilson's administration during World War I. As part of the Committee on Public Information, Bernays (a nephew of Sigmund Freud) was charged with communicating a message of democracy in the U.S. and abroad. Impressed with its effectiveness and convinced that this practice could be used in the private sector during peacetime, he decided to open his own company after leaving government work. His first PR initiative was to rename what had been referred to as "propaganda" during the war to "public relations". The name change was intended to eliminate any stigma attached to the word based on Germany's negative reaction to this communications practice during the war.

Bernays, who had emigrated from Austria to the U.S. with his family as a young child, hung out a shingle in New York City and became one of the world's first PR practitioners. To this day, he is considered the father of modern-day PR. Over several decades, his company introduced PR strategy and implemented tactical programs for many organizations including General Electric, CBS, American Tobacco Company and Proctor & Gamble. He served as the catalyst for a fledgling industry that grew and matured as organizations realized the value of positive publicity for their businesses. The field drew communications professionals, both in house and in agencies. And PR solidified as an increasingly important tool in the field that was becoming known as Marketing.

Today, the Public Relations Society of America' defines public relations as "a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics". It is a definition that both fit the propaganda days of World War I and applies to today's sophisticated techniques aimed at building awareness, providing information, educating and persuading consumers to buy.

Hospitality Embraces PR

In hospitality, the practice of PR took hold industrywide a little later -- about four decades ago -- as owners and operators began to understand the value of "third-party endorsement". This is what distinguishes press coverage – publicity – from paid messaging, such as advertising. A feature article in the travel section of a newspaper or magazine, or coverage on national television, would spark calls to reservations lines and, with the advent of the Internet, online bookings. PR was seen as a sales support tool and a practice that if well done could positively influence business. The third-party endorsement fostered credibility and trust because it was provided by informed individuals not directly connected (nor beholding to) the recipients of positive press coverage.

Choose a Social Network!

The social network you are looking for is not available.

Close

Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Stephanie Hilger
Gio Palatucci
Matt Schwartz
Sridhar Laveti
Megan (Sterritt) Taylor
Gaurav Varma
Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.