Keep the conversation going during COVID-19: a communications strategy to stay in touch with guests
In these unprecedented times, travelers and the travel industry alike are forced to change their plans on a dime. Hotels need to have an adaptable strategy to keep their marketing efforts ongoing. Expert analysis of previous post-precession recovery shows that hotels that focused on marketing strategies (over cost or rate slashing strategies) performed better in the long-term.
To keep marketing your hotel, you need to keep communication flowing throughout the different phases of this crisis. First and foremost, in these early days, make sure your direct communication channels have visible information. If you need strategies or tips on what information to share as a travel update or advisory to hotel guests, read our guide on reassuring guests.
Following that immediate statement, it’s time to create an ongoing communications strategy. The goal is to keep guests informed while putting your property top of mind when travel rebounds.
Communications strategy, step 1: what you’re saying
There are two essential components to a communications strategy: internal and external. Both strategies need to be flexible in this rapidly changing environment.
Your internal strategy is what you’re communicating to all employees and vendors. Your internal strategy should include information about:
- What channels (email, text, intranet) employees should keep an eye on for the latest information
- Key messaging from your external communications plan to be shared with guests reaching out with questions
- Health and safety tips for employees on property as well as those working remotely, with relevant links to WHO and local health department guidelines
- Your current and/or new corporate policies that govern time off, remote working, and travel
Given the nature of the current crisis, your external strategy should be ready to change based on local, regional, and federal policies. However, you must have clear and consistent message that answers guests’ ongoing questions about:
- Precautions your hotel and staff are taking
- Measures in place to protect guest safety
- Planned closures and dates if possible
- Contact information and availability
- Cancellation policy (especially if you have changed it around a certain time frame of dates)
- Information about your local area’s response
The first step to creating both communication strategies is defining the facts that each group needs to know. Then, put it together in a format that can be shared widely (see section three).
Communications strategy, step 2: how you’re saying it
When putting together internal and external communications share as much information as you can as honestly as you can. Everyone is in the same boat right now: appeal to your guests not just as a corporate entity, but as a business run by real people affected by this crisis too.
For external communications, we recommend that you address guests directly and personally—rather than writing something from the hotel in general, have your messages come from an individual (GM, owner, or similar).
If you do not know the date that some of your services, or your hotel, will be open, be honest about that. If you have policies in place to help temporarily laid off staff, share those as well – not only to promote good will, but to underline the impact this is having.
The way you handle this crisis, how you communicate and treat both guests and employees, will have a lasting impact on your reputation. Clear, open communication and positive community outreach will help you recover faster.
Creating a communications strategy: where you’re saying it
You have many lines of communication with your staff and guests. Make sure your communications are tailored to each channel.
- Put your travel update on your homepage with a condensed version of the most relevant information
- If you have a blog, aggregate local news and share any ways you are helping
- Answer as many FAQs as you can on either your policy page or a dedicated COVID-19 response page
- Have several templates at the ready for different scenarios so you can respond quickly
- Proactively reach out to key accounts with a simple message
- Create a newsletter and promote subscriptions on your website to keep guests in the loop, which will help with marketing efforts down the line
- Use social media to communicate both to guests and your local area using relevant hashtags
- Respond to any comments with the information from your external communications strategy
Google My Business (GMB)
- If you have access to your GMB listing use the “post” feature to provide timely updates to people searching in your area
- Posts expire in two weeks, so plan ahead to keep this up-to-date
In the coming weeks and months, hotels will have a lot of information to convey to their guests—and potential guests—in a rapid fashion. Sitting down and thinking through a communications strategy is the key to making sure you can act quickly. A communications strategy means thinking through how you will get the information you need in front of the people who need to see it, in order to lay the groundwork for a strong recovery.
There are glimmers of hope on the horizon, as travel searches begin to pick up for the later half of 2020. Capture some of that hope by using more of our COVID-19 hotel marketing tips and tricks.