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Event Marketing – The Neglected Outreach Tool Within Reach of Most Hotels

Jul 7, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

By Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Specialist

Reprinted from hotelexecutive.com

Ask any meeting or event planner, or any sales and catering department, and they can tell you: events are big business for hospitality organizations.

For those hotels and resorts with the facilities to hold and operate events- both large and small- how those events are marketed can have a real impact on revenues. Yet most hotel marketing efforts focus not on events, but on the property itself, or on amenities and services. If event marketing is a part of the overall marketing strategy at all, it is probably aimed at touting the property’s capability to hold events, or at attracting future events. Marketing during events is often an afterthought, or something left to the event-hosting client.

This is a missed opportunity.

What’s more, the failure to engage in robust event marketing is not just a missed opportunity for that specific class of hotels with events that merit widespread media coverage- in the society pages and otherwise- nor for those convention center hotels that host large-scale events that effect entire communities. Events of any size allow hotels to market their core services as well as their event capabilities to a captive audience of attendees. On a wider level, events lend themselves particularly well to public relations campaigns and initiatives, and can potentially serve as the of-interest item that lands that hotel expansive coverage, and thus expanded visibility in the marketplace.

In short, events are as close to an ideal marketing and public relations vehicle as hotels are likely to encounter. There are hotels that recognize this, and leverage the unique marketing benefits of event hosting to their fullest. But most properties do not consider theses ancillary benefits of events, instead viewing them as simple revenue producing functions, tertiary to the hotel’s core operation of letting rooms.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this viewpoint; after all, if a property made events its number one priority, it would be a banquet hall. This perspective does, however, neglect the tremendous impact successful event marketing can have on revenues- from ‘core’ room sales to increased catering and banquet business to higher traffic at that property’s public offerings (like F&B outlets, spa and pool, etc.).

So how should a hotel go about creating a successful event marketing strategy? There are a few areas that merit serious consideration, and should be kept in mind when marketing an event at a hotel.

Branding

Events are, to use a trite analogy, a blank canvas. Because events are distinct from rooms- and because, unlike rooms, events are not static constructions- hotels have more latitude to create a tone that either augments or expands the property’s existing brand image. If this seems at bit abstract, consider this: a hotel that wants to subtly modify its image strictly through its primary guest space- the room- would have to alter the room itself in some way, a process that would demand a significant investment of time and money. A hotel that wants to leverage event marketing for this same brand-modification aim can do so with a series of strategically planned and executed events.

To use a radical example, if a traditional luxury property changed strategic course and wanted to attract spring breakers, it could host a string of youth-oriented parties around its pool, without changing the design of the rooms themselves.

The events drive the awareness, and thus define the brand.

This should serve as a cautionary example as well. To that point, on a more specific level, the branding within an event should reflect the hotel’s brand, or the brand it wished to embody. The natural market processes that bring a given event (or a attract a given event planner) to a hotel will usually nudge the branding at the event in the direction of the hotel’s existing brand image, but event managers should be vigilant about maintaining the hotel’s brand integrity at events. And since events are an excellent presentation platform for a captive audience, the hotel’s brand should be on full display.

Leveraging sponsorships

Keeping with the theme of brand integrity, sponsorships should also be monitored carefully, as very potential sponsor has a brand of its own. A white tie gala sponsored by Red Bull is probably not the mixed message a hotel wants to convey. That said, sponsorships that are a good fit for the hotel’s brand are a great way to reinforce the hotel’s image. Attracting appropriate sponsors for an event, with the ancillary benefit of having those sponsors defray the operating cost of the event itself, can contribute significantly to the effectiveness of marketing the event.

For a luxury property, aspirational brands are the most common partners, and most easily leveraged sponsors. Strong consumer goods brands may work for convention center hotels that attract a cross-section of demographics. Often the easiest sponsorship for a hotel to obtain for a given event will be an existing purveyor for the hotel- a wine distributor, for instance- that can provide product in exchange for sponsorship. And as a hotel will probably patronize purveyors that are aligned with the quality standards of the hotel, its brand, and its guests, this is usually a good fit.

Integrating non-profits

Events with a socially conscious aspect are often events of interest to the media and the community. Though hosting a nonprofit event at a hotel may not be the most revenue-producing use of space and time (by definition), the marketing and public relations value of such events pays back large dividends. What’s more, nonprofit involvement can be a secondary aspect of a for-profit event, adding dimension to the event and allowing the hotel to display its social conscience to the captive attendees. But the real value of nonprofit integration is the entry to media coverage that these events can provide.

Which leads to the final point in successful event marketing…

PR, or, awareness=revenues

Though event marketing has much to do with branding and putting services and facilities on display, the real gold mine in this area is public relations. Events, by highlighting the public nature of hotels and showcasing more of the property than is typically revealed to guests, invite the public into the hotel, metaphorically. Events provide a window into the hotel’s facilities, and a perspective on its clientele, and provide a platform to display the hotel’s brand. More importantly, events are noteworthy for the media. By their definition, events fulfill the five W’s – who/what/when/where/why – of reporting, allowing the media to tell a story about your hotel. By engaging in event marketing- more specifically, event PR- a hotel can influence that story (positively, one hopes).

Events held at hotels emphasize the dynamic nature of hotels themselves. Events draw attention to those aspects of a property (the public spaces, the catering options) that are typically not trumpeted in traditional marketing materials, which tend to focus on individual guest experiences. They allow a hotel that may excel in these areas to put a particular display of excellence, well, on display. Events, more than any other revenue-producing enterprise within a hotel, engender cross promotion, and present the option to partner with other businesses and organizations beyond the client (through sponsorships and purveyor partnerships). Marketing events should be a high priority for all hotels with the facilities to host them.

Is it one for yours?

Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Development Manager with ThinkInk Communications, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division called TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visit www.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at jlr@travelinkd.com.

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