You’ve taken the plunge and greened your hotel. Now, how do you make people aware that your hotel meets their standards? How do you reach your most important target market—the eco-conscious, often referred to as geo-tourist?
If your hotel is located in one of the states that has few, if any, green hotels, this may prove to be an easier feat. You won’t have to contend with an overcrowded marketplace and heavy competition. One of the first things you need to do is determine what knowledge point or base you are starting from with the media. This can easily be accomplished by skimming the local newspapers and magazines and noting how many green articles have been written and from what vantage point. You’ll quickly be able to tell how you need to communicate your message to the media so that they understand. If you are the first green hotel in your city, you can use this angle. Other angles could include:
• Tying in with national or local green trends and how your hotel meets these needs for consumers.
• Energy efficiency—a hot topic. Talk about how your hotel is more energy efficient or what you are striving for.
• Highlight how your staff has benefited from your hotel going green. Do your housekeepers no longer complain about their burning eyes and hands, or respiratory issues due to exposure to harsh chemicals?
• Highlight overall benefits to consumers in staying at a green hotel.
• Tell the story of where you’ve been, where your hotel is today and why you made the change. Take a stance on green issues and get noticed.
• If you have meeting space available, make sure to make the business community aware of this. You can even hold an event to show how other businesses can become green by bringing in local experts.
• Partner with other green businesses in the area and create a group or association if there isn’t one. Notify the media of this entity and what its goals are.
Even if you have other green hotels in your city, many of the above angles will work, but you will have to be more creative in your approach. The media will already be aware of green hotels and some of their benefits, so you’ll have to highlight your uniqueness as a green hotel to get noticed. Just remember to walk the walk and talk the talk. Consider getting your hotel involved in green events or create one specific to your hotel to attract consumers who care.
Create a Media Target List
Once you have decided on your angle, you need to target the publications that will be most in tune with your message or capitalize on a local news story that will highlight your angle. Find out which reporters cover either the hotel stories or general environmental stories and create your list of contacts. If you don’t subscribe to Burrelle’s or Bacon’s Media Directories, you can easily find out this information from the media’s website or from reading their publication and seeing who wrote what story. Trust me, you always want to read the publications you are pitching first so that you understand what they do and don’t cover. It will save you much embarrassment from being told by a reporter that you’re wasting their time.
It’s now time to write out your pitch. Think about your angle and write out a couple of pitches that are quick and to the point. They need to convey your message in 30 to 60 seconds and you’ll need to be ready to change gears if the media does not respond to your initial pitch.
Make sure you’ve either received media training from a professional or at least used a media training tool to help you get prepared. No matter what size your company is, you want to make sure you know how to create your main statements, often called anchor statements, and you know how to avoid getting misquoted. It’s definitely a skill that is worth developing.
Keep in mind what consumers really want to know about when deciding to choose a green hotel and highlight those features and benefits to the reporter.
Think Beyond Press Releases
Don’t let your PR activities stop there. Press releases are only one way to gain exposure and build awareness about your hotel. Consider some of these other options:
• E-zines—Electronic newsletters, often referred to as E-zines, are a great tool to help you educate the right audience about your hotel and what you offer. As long as you can provide educational content and not infomercials, you should be able to secure some articles in E-zines and direct people back to your website. A tool such as the Directory of E-zines is quite helpful.
• Syndicate your content to be used in E-zines. One of the cheapest ways to get the word out is to create content that can be used by various E-zines. You can do this by determining which sites you want to target, then submitting your articles to these sites. Not only will they post them as content that people can use in their E-zines, but these syndicated content sites also link your name and articles to the search engines that could increase your overall rankings.
In the United States, ecotourism is estimated to be a $77 billion market representing 5 percent of the overall U.S. travel and tourism market. By publicizing your hotel to this targeted group, you could significantly increase your market share and demonstrate your commitment to being a good environmental steward in the company of few other hotels that have made this switch.
Just remember that when you make your company transparent, you have to walk the walk and talk the talk to avoid being accused of greenwashing.
Colette Chandler is an expert in consumer health and environmental trends and the president of The Marketing Insider, a marketing and communications consulting firm that teaches companies how to profit from consumer trends. To learn more about the media training services she offers, go to www.marketing-insider.com, call (614) 776-1416, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.