Yep, you read that right.
Great positive national media coverage you can not buy.
Let me tell you a story and fill in the missing the details.
Let’s say you’ve launched one of the most-talked-about openings in Las Vegas.
You’ve received some of the best, most highly-valued media coverage any brand would crave.
You’ve been running a “wow” television commercial in all the feeder markets on all the best programs which people still talk about today.
Everyone is calling you to congratulate you on being “sold out.”
You smile and say, “Thank you” even though you know you are not “sold out.”
And that’s because you’re in charge of marketing a premium luxury brand and a sale sign on the door is NOT an option.
Does Great Media Coverage Equal Success?
This is the situation I was in after opening one of my favorite Las Vegas properties.
The challenge is that even with all the great media coverage we had, we committed a big faux pas.
Because we were so focused on national media coverage that we committed to exclusives which would roll out as we opened the doors, we didn’t understand that allowing the local media in before the opening would not jeopardize the national media we had lined up.
Without local media coverage, our market sat in the dark.
In a market dependent on tourism, we overlooked the importance of those locals whom people often ask for recommendations on what to do and where to stay.
And we were sold out.
Not only on the weekends but also when we had a conference or meeting in-house.
We would sit in our weekly occupancy meetings and see wide-open random single days—Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
These “shoulder” dates are always a challenge to fill.
Who do you know who will travel a distance to stay at a luxury resort on a single random weeknight?
Sure, we all travel for business, but what hotel can get 2,000 single night rooms filled without a serious discount?
Add to that, we have a production show and more than a dozen restaurants which need to be fully used.
What’s a marketing gal to do when the COO points across the table and says:
I want you to fill those rooms.
A Personal Story
A little story about me.
This was my first time working at a resort or hotel, and the core management team had worked together successfully for many years.
I was an outsider with crazy brand marketing ideas.
I may not have had hotel sales experience, but I did know a little something about marketing to the marketers.
Years before, I worked for a casino company in New Orleans that faced an uphill media-challenged opening.
Casinos were just starting to spring up in regional markets and with them came much hand-wringing from some very loud anti-casino voices.
For that casino project, we bought all the requisite ads and secured a great distribution of billboards.
During this paid media journey, I became friends with a wonderfully smart woman who was on the leading edge of taxi advertising.
She always encouraged me to visit the garage where the cab drivers checked in to get their new ads or repair hardware.
I’d stop by with my team bearing hats and koozies, sometimes bringing lunch, and they loved us.
So, when people asked where they should go, the cab drivers always pointed them in our direction.
Fast forward five years, and now I’m faced with filling random nights, we have neglected our local market, AND I discover the taxi drivers, who have never set foot on our property, are telling their fares that we are “really expensive.”
In full disclosure, we are not inexpensive by any means, but please!
We have one of the most beautiful resorts on the strip that features lush, beautiful landscaping, a conservatory with REAL trees INSIDE the property, a show on a mountain, more than a dozen incredible chefs, and the list goes on and on.
It was one wow after another, but you’re just going to call us “expensive”??
We needed to get these taxi drivers into the property in a way they could experience everything on offer and become our “ambassadors-on-wheels.”
A Passport to Discovery
Remembering my old friend at Taxi Ads in New Orleans, I contacted the local version.
Yep, things operated pretty much the way I remembered them.
They and the two largest taxi companies agreed to distribute invitations to all the taxi drivers.
Remember those random hotel nights my COO wanted me to fill?
Well, he didn’t exactly tell me HOW to fill them, but fill them I did!
We selected a team of reservations specialists who would know all the details of what we were planning.
Then, we set up a special reservation line for the drivers so they could pick the night which best-suited their schedule.
The driver and their significant other received a passport to discover the property through a self-guided tour.
Designed especially for them so they would traverse every inch of the resort (which in Las Vegas is always sizeable).
All the retail outlets on the property created an “experience” for them and stamped their passports.
Once they had a passport full of stamps, it became their “ticket” to a private party in one of our nightclubs featuring a buffet created by all of our star chefs.
Literally, a five-star buffet manned by those chefs.
Additionally, they all received tickets to our production show.
By the end of the evening, they experienced every retail and dining outlet, our nightclubs and show.
Then they laid their heads down on one of the most comfortable beds they’ll ever sleep on.
Was it expensive?
But now the conversation became:
You have to see (fill in the blank with their favorite memory).
The taxi drivers were thrilled, those random empty room nights were filled, and the company chairman thought I was a genius.
If he only knew that I had taken an old idea, dusted it off, and added more bling.
PR Lessons to Remember
Often when you’re sweating a problem, you learn the best lessons.
- Don’t put your eggs in one basket (or communications channel). We thought we had done a stellar job negotiating marquee media exclusives and receiving great media coverage. I mean, really. Can you remember the last time Today broadcast their entire show with multiple segments to spotlight a resort? Ultimately, we missed the importance of smaller, local media. Shame on us.
- Your media strategy should apply to all channels, not just those you click or turn on. Our media relations strategy was to leverage the sources our targets looked to for “information and inspiration.” We forgot about the valuable time visitors spent with taxi drivers looking for that information.
- Dust off your old bag of tricks. Old tricks can still apply, even when using new ways to communicate.
I would love to know some old tricks you have to garner great media coverage.
Please share in the comments below.