“Public Relations” refers not to a single tactic but to a varied number of ways that a travel agent can reach out to the public at large and raise the profile of their travel agency. Public relations tactics tend to be a favorite of guerilla marketers as they depend more on personal effort than outlays of capital and, properly executed, can be highly effective.
Unfortunately, most travel agencies neglect public relations. Other marketing channels seem much more accessible and easily accomplished. Public relations depends heavily on the direct participation of the travel agent via public speaking, publication or networking. As a result, many travel planners relegate public relations tactics to a low priority in their marketing plan. The truth is, however, that for the travel agent willing to put themselves in full view of their community, few marketing tactics are as effective for establishing the travel agent as a local expert.
Here are a few of the most common public relations mistakes travel agents make:
This 365 Marketing and Sales Tip is provided free to the travel agent community by:
Not having a Public Relations Plan – Travel agents treat public relations like a poor relative in the family of marketing tactics. Public relations become an afterthought – “Maybe we should do a press release.” It is far better for a solid public relations plan to be in place and worked consistently from the beginning of every fiscal year along with every other aspect of your marketing plan.
Not cultivating media relationships – Most travel agents have few, if any, media contacts. A good public relations marketer will be continuously cultivating relationships with reporters, editors and others charged with the responsibility of putting together publications and media. Long in advance of need, these relationships should be in place and well-groomed.
Poor Timing – Public relations strategists used to be called “advance men.” They were way out ahead of the launch of a new product to inform the press and to get the public conditioned for a new product release. Waiting until the last moment to consider your public relations strategy makes it much more difficult to accomplish effectively.
Poor Content – Too many attempts at public relations are in reality either boring internal corporate news or advertising in disguise. Media types are interested in neither. Instead, find ways of introducing a very human element into your public relations content, geared to the readership and circulation of the media you want to use as a distribution channel. Always think benefits, not features. Don’t send the newspaper a press release about your Ireland destination certification. Send them the story of one of your clients who went to Ireland to discover their Irish roots and how your agency assisted them in the effort! That’s a story.
Not actively monitoring the media – One aspect of public relations is called “reputation management.” Many travel agencies fail to keep their ear to the ground to better understand if there is any relevant publicity, good or bad, in their communities. Use Google and other tools to periodically comb the internet, Twitter, Facebook and other media for mentions of your company, your company’s services, or even for openings to address the public on matters of concern in the travel industry.
Not meeting bad news head-on – Travel agents sometimes think that bad news will just “go away.” Sorry, but that seldom happens. Whether the bad news is general economic or national news affecting travel, or whether it is specific to your agency, you do well to get ahead of it, to meet it authentically and directly.