Meeting the Challenges of Hospitality PR

BW Hotelier spoke to some of the NCR's leading young hotel PR professionals to discover what they thought was the most challenging aspect of their jobs. Most seem to be trying to get a grip of the animal called Social Media.

Clockwise top extreme Left: Mallika Dasgupta, Senior Manager, Communications, The Oberoi and Trident, Gurgaon; Nikita Das, Director PR and Marketing, Taj Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi; Parinita Samanta, Public Relations Manager at Hyatt Regency, Delhi; Sarah Stephanos, Director, Public Relations, The Park, New Delhi; Arpana Pradhan, Marketing Communications Manager, Andaz Delhi; Anjori Kumar, Director of Communications,Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, New Delhi; Aparupa Ray Ganguly, Head PR and Marketing, The Imperial, New Delhi; and Nidhi Verma, Head PR & Marketing Communications, Leela Ambience Gurugram Hotel & Residences.

IN A highly competitive industry like hospitality, it is important to formulate and implement strong and effective public relation strategies. Luxury hotels, in particular, depend on good PR to build their image and grab the attention of customers.

Today, a hotel’s public relations or PR personnel do a lot more than just drafting press releases and reaching out to the media. With the advent of online and social media, the field has evolved over the years. The growth in the digital space has added more opportunities for public relation practitioners to make their content available for newer audience.

“Traditionally, PR has been largely focused on generating media coverage, we used to stress on having strong relationships with media personnel to get the best coverages generated for the hotel. But now, the Internet and social media has fragmented audiences and enabled hotels to be their own publisher and to build audiences of their own,” according to Nidhi Verma, Head PR & Marketing Communications at The Leela Ambience Gurugram Hotel & Residences.

Verma added that a PR person nowadays is usually responsible of taking care of complete Brand Management and Marketing Communications and Online/ social Management for their property.

Sharing similar thoughts, Parinita Samanta, Public Relations Manager at Hyatt Regency, Delhi, said hospitality PR is an ever evolving field, “earlier it was only about print media but now digital and online platform are playing an important role. Today internet is free and we can read the news and blogs at our finger tips which really interests me.”

Speaking about the role of PR in hospitality, Mallika Dasgupta, Senior Manager – Communications at The Oberoi and Trident, Gurgaon said, “Public relations is more than just media relations efforts. Public relations strategists now work seamlessly with core operations teams to craft an overview of how the company wants to be perceived, and how it is going to project a positive image. This can involve focusing in on exactly the right message, and then deciding on the broad outlines of a campaign to disseminate that message.”

Dasgupta feels that, today social media is playing an important role in PR, “you need to have a dedicated team to monitor social media and a devoted content generation team that constantly comes up with interesting things.”

With around 13 years of experience in PR, Sarah Stephanos, Director, Public Relations at The Park, New Delhi, said there are many more opportunities for a PR person to showcase their brand today, then when she began in the profession. “It definitely keeps me on my toes and I have so much more to learn and keep up with. Teamwork takes center stage. PR teams have to work in tandem with everyone else in the hotel, to make the brand a success story.”

According to Head PR and Marketing at The Imperial, New Delhi, Aparupa Ray Ganguly, the whole idea of being able to design the communication strategy for an iconic hotel and to be able to continuously adapt to a dynamic world of digital media is very challenging yet very inspiring. “We are very active in tapping key domestic and international markets via print and online media and do select editorial associations which match up to our repertoire.  Social media too has turned around our reach in domestic as well as international markets, reaching out not only to our target markets but also to key opinion makers and media.”

“We are extremely active on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Our social media strategies on all these platforms help us to promote our F&B activities, awards, contests, news and other key developments in the hotel on a global level to our guests and also to our image makers in a substantial way.” She added.

Nikita Das, Director PR and Marketing, Taj Diplomatic Enclave, New Delhi, (formerly Taj Palace) said the hospitality industry largely depends on public perception, image projection and acceptance.

“When dealing with the hospitality industry, it is very easy to lose good favour with the public for one reason or another and equally difficult to re-build an image of repute. At this point, the only way to salvage it, is through great hotel marketing and public relations strategies,” she said.

“Today’s PR requires a sound social media strategy that is based on the insights of the evolving audience network, their preferences, the topics that get their interest, and trends in participant behavior,” she added.

Another veteran, the Director of Communications at Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, New Delhi, Anjori Kumar says that the digital market has grown exponentially and is becoming more and more user-friendly, making it quicker to disseminate information for everyone to see. This is both an opportunity as well as a risk, as social media and reputation management go hand in hand.

“PR professionals are increasingly turning to technology that goes beyond traditional media monitoring to analyze large volumes of data to determine the true impact of PR efforts and spend. Although keeping up with the changing PR environment is a challenge, an enormous amount of opportunity has opened up for brands and the public to connect. We are in a better position than ever to share our message and reach our audience in stimulating, diverse, and effective ways,” she said.

Arpana Pradhan, Marketing Communications Manager at Andaz Delhi, considers herself lucky as she grew along with the advent of social and digital takeover in the PR world.  “Perhaps the inclination towards social media for PR was natural as we saw it coming and grew along with it and today it is one of the key additions that help PR of any industry. The pace of change in public relations has never been faster than it is today,” she said.

Pradhan believes that a PR’s role these days is less about selling and more about telling stories that engage prospects or customers, and visual storytelling is of more impact than ever. “Traditional print media is not going away any time soon, but in recent years, social and digital platforms have been extremely dominating,” she added.

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