How do customers help tell your PR story?
Note: This blog was first published on 14 February 2019 on www.hotelsmag.com/Industry/Blogs, where Richard has been invited to contribute a monthly blog.
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There are 287 hotels in Hong Kong and 80,596 rooms to fill each day. That adds up to a lot of choices when it comes to prospective customers deciding where to stay, and which boxes each individual hotel tick for a customer.
Creating a brand strategy always comes back to customer response
In a market as competitive as hospitality and in a territory like Hong Kong, an effective PR strategy and brand strategy are essential and must be creative, agile and adaptable. For a smaller hotel like ICON without the benefit of a corporate engine, PR tactics are vital both in terms of positioning and creating valuable partnerships to help us expand and grow into new markets.
A brand as an art is about telling a story or creating a memory, and if word of mouth was always a valuable currency, social media platforms have made it more so, with our customers sharing and interacting with one another, and directly with us as individual brands and hotel groups. The degree to which customer trust influences decisions has never been higher and is clearly rising. So whilst every brand behavior is on public display, customer interaction and building trust are more important than ever. We can create a brand strategy and brand marketing strategy, to tell our brand story however we want, but it ultimately boils down to the response of the customer to reflect this.
To an extent, a brand’s story is now out of its control – the internet put paid to that – so we must recognize our customer as an author and fabulist exploring the possibilities of what they can give towards our overall PR effort, rather than take away from it and build outwards on that.
Hotel ICON make brand stories 'Unlike any other'
Hotel ICON make PR stories 'Unlike any other'
How Hotel ICON creates its brand story
Here at ICON we look at every operation and aspect of the hotel and service and make our brand story out of each part, and this tactic has proved successful over the years. We utilize as many platforms as possible and try to engage with as many of our customers as we can on a daily basis, developing conversations and points of view to enable a differentiated position in the market. For ICON, Instagram, in particular, has proved a valuable word of mouth tool.
Now, of course, we have more sophisticated data to integrate, too, which means we can make PR more tailored individually, and certainly here at ICON we are keeping a keen eye on tech advances and how we can use them to our advantage in the future.
Hotel ICON utilizes as many platforms as possible to engage with as many of customers
In my own individual case, I was fortunate enough to build ICON from the ground up and in doing so made sure that the brand’s story was baked in from the beginning, which in turn has made the brand story easier to develop. As a starting point, we had the fact that at the core of ICON was its point as an innovative teaching hotel.
As a team, we continually collaborate on ideas and innovations to keep the stories surrounding ICON fresh and different trying to stay a step ahead so we can be at the top end of any adoptive curve! We introduced a fleet of electric cars as an example of this and were the first in Hong Kong to serve The Impossible burger too last year. This gives us new angles to use. Certainly, we view PR as essential to ICON and almost as important as any role in the operation, whereas past experience has shown that this isn’t always the case in bigger groups.
Anyway, one thing is for certain, I have learned that you may not win the game by deploying a brand marketing strategy, but you will definitely lose without it.
Hotel ICON is the first hotel in Hong Kong to serve The Impossible burger