A key part of our PR and marketing strategy as an independent, boutique hotel is building relationships with our local community. By both curating an authentic experience for our guests and providing them with a taste of our local area, while simultaneously developing goodwill with stakeholders, building relationships with neighbouring organisations can provide multifaceted returns if executed effectively.
Whether it’s with a local event, a product or a tourist board, there are a variety of opportunities for every hotel to forge a partnership that suits its needs. Destination partnerships can entail anything from hosting a one-off drinks reception with a local gin distillery, to creating an integrated campaign with a world-renowned brand that conveniently boasts the same destination heritage as your hotel, and depending on your aims, can be tailored to fit the outcome you are seeking.
Not only can collaboration strengthen the positioning of your hotel through strategically affiliating your brand with respected peers, it also adds to your own offering by creating an experience, something that is becoming increasingly sought after in the travel sector as guests look for more than just a standard hotel stay. These experiences can then be utilised for hooks for further marketing activity and press coverage, appealing to consumers and media alike to bolster your hotel’s profile.
Building destination partnerships also allows for you to market your hotel to another client base that you previously didn’t have access to, something that is especially valuable in a newly GDPR-compliant world. If you’ve appropriately aligned your brand, audiences should have similar profiles and buying behaviours, ensuring you can still use the same messaging without having to alter your brand’s tone of voice.
From a financial viewpoint, partnerships may produce cost savings, with the ability to capitalise on others’ skills and resources and reduce the reliance on additional suppliers. Economies of scale can be achieved for material goods and sharing of intellectual capital can provide local insights that previously could have been overlooked. Working with other tourism brands could even result in positive coopetition, amplifying the reach of each of your brands through joint marketing efforts and additionally promoting your wider destination to achieve a greater and longer-term market share than your own singular efforts would.
Identification and implementation
Identifying brands that align with your hotel is key to a successful collaboration. By assessing their brand values, target audiences and public perception, one can establish if there is strong brand synergy, essential for effective collaboration. It is worthwhile assessing the mutual gain between the potential partner and your offering – focus on what you have to gain from partnering with them as well as with you are offering in return. Keep in mind what you would like to get out of the partnership with clear objectives, and review these regularly to ensure the partnership maintains its viability.
Once you have identified local brands that you would like to work with, the next thing to do is build a rapport and demonstrate that it will be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Research and building relationships will take time, but without it, you’ll struggle to support your pitch with tangible advantages. Joining business groups, attending local events or simply inviting your target organisation to experience your hotel can be a lead-in to a more conversations. PR agencies can also be helpful for making connections and coming up with ideas for partnerships to break down the barriers between your hotel and a potential partner.
There is of course the possibility that the identity of the brand you’ve chosen evolves into a different entity that is no longer cohesive with your own. To avoid this, look for well established companies to partner with, where messaging is consistent and brand awareness is strong. However, if you do decide to partner with a young brand, avoid long-term agreements as it may still be developing its place in the market.
Like all good marketing activities, measurement is essential in order to analyse whether a certain partnership has worked, and whether you would like to continue with it. Looking at a range of measurements, from cost savings and brand awareness to website referrals and press exposure, can really paint a picture of whether the partnership has benefited you. Asking for feedback from your pre-existing guests is also a great way to assess the success of a partnership as you are also trying to create an enhanced experience for them when they visit. Measuring brand perception through social listening or surveying attendees to partnership events who have never experienced your hotel before provides another level of third-party assessment.
There’s much to be said for the benefits of building a relationship with your hotel’s local community, from boosting your audience reach and market awareness through combined strategies to adding a new dimension to your guest experience. Not only will forging partnerships create a sense of place for your brand that is enhanced by your partners, but it can shape a collective offering that will simultaneously develop new opportunities for both your hotel and community.
By Julia Davies, director of marketing and PR at The Cottage in the Wood, Malvern. A former consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, Davies left the corporate world in 2015 to take on the ownership of the 30-bedroom property.