At Hawkins International, we are always looking for ways to partner with our clients beyond our day-to-day media, social media and influencer relations work. This week, Jennifer Hawkins, founder and CEO, joined two of her fellow industry experts, Carol Stratford and Julie Keller Callaghan of Hutchinson Consulting, to provide tactical tips for clients and brands navigating new marketing, digital and PR territories. You can watch the full, hour-long webinar here, but we’ve also curated some highlights from the chat below.
What Can a Brand Do to Stay Relevant and Visible?
It’s important to be incredibly mindful of the moment, and tone and agility are currently paramount. What sounds good today may not be a messaging fit next week as the situation is changing rapidly. Through our close observations and conversations with key editors, publications are leaning into the following content themes right now:
- Virtual and wanderlust armchair travel stories with inspirational photo essays or virtual tours.
- Human-driven stories so that readers can get to know the personalities behind the scenes.
- Wellness will continue to be necessary, and editors want practical rituals and tips for exercise, diet, yoga and beauty.
- Relief programs and gift cards are starting to gain prominence. This includes travel bonds that increase in value over time and hotel associate relief funds.
- Non-COVID-19 related stories are also still being published. These focus on culinary, design, real estate, wellness, spirits and mixology.
Overall, now is the time to capitalize on editorial shifts from product to content and from transactions to inspiration.
Social Media Guidance
Now is the time to stay active on social media. Audiences aren’t expecting polished, curated content in this time, and the brand affinity that will come with producing thoughtful, valuable posts will pay off in dividends in the bounce back period. When ideating content for platforms, these are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Instagram: This is the platform where the social media audience is currently spending the majority of their time. Right now, Instagram Stories are seeing the highlight levels of engagement – with engagement up about 20%. Because of this, content should be optimized for Instagram Stories, and brands need to cross-promote any feed content on Stories and leverage native features like polls and quizzes to further engage the audience. Instagram Live has also seen a significant uptick with a 70% increase in views. Something to keep in mind for Instagram Live, is that these are not produced pieces – the tool is optimized for raw, authentic content and is not something that should intimidate you.
- LinkedIn: Due to the increase in unemployment levels, this platform is currently seeing high traffic levels. This means that it’s even more important to tailor content to the audience that’s on there. Thought Leadership pieces should live here, whether in the form of linked articles, long-form LinkedIn posts or cross-promoted blog content they can all resonate to this audience. Content marketing highlighting leadership will allow you to control your brand narrative and position yourself as a leader in the industry.
- Facebook: Most people using this platform right now are gravitating towards messenger and groups. Facebook is where people go to connect with friends and family as opposed to take in content from brands. That said, the most strategic ways to engage on Facebook right now are leveraging your own brand personalities via Facebook Live demos and tutorials and developing Facebook Groups that highlight virtual content.
- Influencers: Influencers are still developing branded content right now. The Hawkins International team has tapped into many of our own influencer friends to get the word out about restaurant delivery services and other community-based initiatives. As always with influencers, there needs to be an equal exchange of value when negotiating deliverables, and this is a great time to coordinate a credit for a future stay.
Predictions for the Future of Travel and Hospitality
While there’s no way to know exactly what the future of travel will look like, a few predictions stood out during the panel discussion.
- Focus on Domestic and Hyper-Local Travel: Hotels have an opportunity to develop cultural packages for a drive market audience. This provides brands with a great opportunity to work with local attractions on a unique experience.
- Resorts with Private Villas: These types of villas at high-end, luxury resorts will be attractive to travelers who are looking for minimal crowds and on-demand services.
- Shared, Short Getaways: Easy to book 3 to 4-night packages will be appealing for those who want a quick getaway from work. Travelers will also be looking for shared experiences with friends – golf trips and girlfriend getaways will likely see a renewed interest.
- Travel Agent Bookings: More people will likely book with travel agents because these providers allow for easier refunds and more flexibility. Virtuoso is seeing this trend start now with many people booking now for the future.
- Cleanliness Protocols: Brands will need to come up with effective, transparent and actionable messaging on how they are enhancing existing sanitation procedures. This is something travelers will be looking as they research future getaways.
- Self-Guided Experiences: From virtual shopping experiences to contact-free credit card swiping, there will be a new demand for no-touch experiences.
Overall, now is the time to keep communications plans alive and not go dark. Your previous and future guests want to hear from you at this time. The travel and hospitality industry has weathered many catastrophic events, and it will not only come back but thrive. In all of this, it’s essential to have a clear point of view and have faith. Sebastian Bazin, CEO of Accor, put it beautifully when he recently appeared on CNN International: “Don’t bet against the hospitality industry. Our industry is a formidable one.” We’re certainly with him on that.