WITH tourism continuing to boom in the country and around the world, there is a growing need for more people to fill both staff and managerial positions in hotels and resorts. And one of the more critical areas where good, qualified people are needed is in public relations.
Based on my experience in dealing with and observing PR hotel officers and staffers in my career—some of them good friends and one even a close relative—the common traits possessed by the successful ones are the following:
1. They must have a passion for excellence and a thirst for knowledge in all fields of human endeavor, especially the social sciences, as well as in the hospitality, travel and tourism field, in which they operate. This is usually gained from their upbringing, formal education, self-study and on-the-job experience. The skills and wealth of knowledge they have attained are the raw materials or the foundation they need for the hotel PR jobs they aspire to assume.
2. They must have good personal PR and must genuinely and sincerely like people. This will help them interact well with all types of characters, including unfriendly or outright contrary ones. Good looks and bearing are a big help, but being presentable—well-groomed and smartly dressed —should be good enough, plus a pleasing and likable personality to go with all these. They must also have a positive outlook in life and know how to behave properly in accordance with the basic rules of good manners and right conduct, social etiquette and protocol.
3. Being in PR, they must have the facility for written and verbal communications, which comprise much of the functions of this profession, such as writing press releases, articles and speeches and addressing, or talking with, the hotel’s different publics. But aside from this, they must also be knowledgeable in the various aspects of PR work, such as advertising, events management, publication of printed materials, such as newsletters and brochures, production of corporate giveaways, putting up booths and exhibits at travel fairs, and so on and so forth. These tasks are usually undertaken by the PR department of the hotel or are supervised by it when contracted to outside suppliers.
4. They must thoroughly know the hotel they work for—its vision and mission, history, goals, facilities, services, prime markets, positions on various issues affecting the industry and corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, if any. For these will be the subjects of all their and their department’s messaging to the hotel’s different publics. As the hotel’s spokesmen, they must know their organization like the palm of their hand, inside out, front and back.
5. They must be creative and innovative and must be able to come out with, or be open to, new and original ideas. They must be on the lookout for the latest trends in the industry that the hotel can ride on. They should be able to suggest projects or events that the management can undertake to improve the hotel’s or resort’s image and enhance relations with clients and customers. Or at least they must be able to provide inputs on how to make these projects and events more impactful, PR-wise.
Holding special celebrations or promotions on Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day and organizing food festivals are already standard in many hotels. But there are other good concepts that may not have been tried before, but which could also be successful. The possibilities are endless and it is just a matter of choosing the most promising, doable and cost-efficient among them.
6. They must also have—and must constantly expand—their range of contacts in all sectors, especially, being in PR, in both traditional print, radio and TV media and the new and fast-growing and increasingly important digital and social media. But beyond media, their contacts list must also include the upper echelons of society, as well as of business and civic groups that comprise the actual and potential clientele of top hotels, especially the four- or five-star ones. Special attention must also be given to travel agencies, which can bring to the hotel a lot of business.
This is not to mention the government sector, particularly agencies that have something to do with the hotel and hospitality sector such as the Department of Tourism and the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corp. The hotel should support the programs and campaigns undertaken by these agencies whenever possible.
The PR Department must have the backing of management in its efforts to gain the goodwill of these publics by way of entertaining them at the hotel’s food outlets, providing them with familiarization or “fam” tours of the hotel’s facilities and of other hotels elsewhere belonging to the chain, giving gifts to special contacts, like food baskets or corporate giveaways, like calendars during their birthdays or holidays, like Christmas, or providing them with extra amenities when they use the hotel’s facilities.
7. While they develop and nurture their relations with the hotel’s external publics, the PR managers and staffers must not overlook doing the same with the other departments within the hotel, like the marketing, food and beverages, finance, housekeeping, security and particularly the front-liners who are the guests’ first and most frequent contacts with the hotel. The front-liners include the doormen, security people, those manning the check-in and check-out desks, the telephone operators, and the waiters and bartenders at their restaurants and bars.
The PR department needs to work with the members of these internal publics as a team and gain their support and cooperation in helping make their guests’ and customers’ stay in the hotel as satisfactory, as pleasurable and as hassle-free as possible.
8. The PR managers and staff members of a hotel must have the capacity and endurance to work hard and for long hours—virtually 24/7—since they often have to stay late at night to be present and assist during important hotel-organized or—sponsored events, or to finish a project and meet a tight deadline. Thus, it would be good if they have an understanding and supportive family that knows and accepts the demands of their job.
However, they must not take their families for granted. They must be able to set aside and spend “quality” time with their spouses and children as much as possible. To be able to do this, it would be good for the PR manager to have a deputy or senior staffer capable enough to spell them during such occasions when a PR representative must be present.
9. They must be cool under fire because, likely than not, they will be confronted in the course of the day with numerous minor and major crises. Thus, they must be able to think clearly and act calmly in “putting out the fires,” so to speak. They must be patient and tolerant in dealing with dissatisfied or even irate clients or customers who may feel they have been wronged or shortchanged or disrespected in one way or another by the hotel. They must be able to pacify and mollify them enough so that they do not stop patronizing the hotel.
10. Last, possessing a good sense of humor is vital in hotel PR. This trait may seem trivial, but if one takes all things too seriously in one’s job, the stresses and frustrations could build up and cause job fatigue, or even a nervous breakdown. It’s good to tell jokes and make witty comments now and then in order to lighten the atmosphere and help everyone be happy and relaxed. There should be many opportunities or occasions for levity and happiness in one’s work in a hotel for, after all, the aim of a hotel is to please its guests and make them happy.
The above list of what is needed to succeed in hotel PR is by no means complete. I am sure there are others I may have missed or overlooked, not having been in hotel PR myself. But these are my observations and feedback from dealing with many outstanding hotel PR professionals in my career. And as one PR professional to another, I have nothing but the highest regard and esteem for them. May their tribe increase. The tourism industry, the whole country, in fact, needs more of them.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the International Public Relations Association, the premier association for senior professionals around the world. Rene Nieva is the chairman and CEO of Perceptions Inc.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer the readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your comments and questions to email@example.com.