hosted our PR and Communication Forum last week at Gaysorn Urban Resort in Bangkok. We originally anticipated having around 30 PR and Communication professionals but word must have got around and we ended up having the honour of hosting over 70 people. Our panelists were Charles Yap Senior Director, Communications of Onyx, Marion Walsh Hedouin VP of Public Relations and Communications of Minor, Yupapone Vorapongsukonth Corporate Director of Public Relations of Centara Hotels and Resorts, Nopnarit Lieopanich founder of Z Communications, and myself, Wimintra Raj as a moderator.

The theme of this panel discussion ‘Communication that Sells’ came from discussions with people in PR from various hotels that had all been through times when the communications that they had sent out didn’t end up bringing in the desired results which begged the question “What’s the point of us talking and communicating if it doesn’t sell?”.

Selling doesn’t always mean selling physical products but it can also meant our ideas, our brand or other intangible things. We might be selling something everyday without us being actively aware of it. We sell our qualification to take on a particular job to our company company or clients so that they hire us, we sell our Unique Selling Points (USP) of our hotels to developers and we might even be selling a simple idea to our friends so they come party with us on a school night.

So, how should hoteliers sell to customers? The following are key points that each of our esteemed panelists shared both during our discussions:

In response to the question ‘What does Communication mean to you?”, Marion discussed what she believes is the Golden Rule of Communication– that is, “believe in what you say and you will succeed” - at the same time, she also mentioned that she never really thought of herself as a salesperson. She believes in being authentic and genuine to the brand.

So in our messages if we need to be true to ourselves, true to who we are and true to what we believe in, why is it that we hear that a good salesman could sell ice to an Eskimo? I suppose that I will have to put it down to the type of product we are selling in our industry - ‘hospitality’. This is an industry where we don’t sell products, rather we sell experiences and memories and for those to be truly felt, they need to be genuine.

Once you are already clear about your message, where should we go next? Our panelists believed that even today in a very digital world, both print and online media hold equal importance in hotel communications. While we you can use analytics to measure quite accurately your ‘Return on Media Investment’ (ROMI) on digital, print media is still an important element in not only ‘creating’ your brand, but also ‘reinforcing’ it.

Nopnarit who represents many high-end brands like Bottega and Rosewood mentioned that while nowadays just seeing a print ad in a high end magazine won’t be enough to spur somebody on to buying into a new brand that is being marketed to them. It’s a journey. They will wait and start seeing other people around them using it. They might see images of well known people using the brand and then vouching for it. The sale won’t usually happen until finally that person hears a positive testimony from someone he or she knows that uses that brand. In this case, it doesn't’ mean that print is not important. Each time that a big glossy print ad is seen in a prestigious magazine, that brand’s image is reinforced and will ensure ongoing loyalty to the brand and ensure that that person too becomes an ambassador of their brand to other people around them. Print and digital all fit together to complete the ‘brand journey’.

One question that was posed to all of the panelists was “Supposing you had an event and you did all that you could spending on the media solutions that you believed appropriate - Facebook, Google Ads, nice flyers etc., but then didn’t get the return you hoped for, how would you analyse what went wrong? Who would be to blame?”

Our panelists agreed that it could be one of many factors that could have gone wrong. The most important thing is to realize is that it did go wrong and learn not to just look for someone to blame. Instead, listen to your customers. Ask a group of friends who have similar interests to what the event was about why they didn’t they come (or wouldn’t have attended such an event). Maybe they would tell you and you will save yourself going down the rabbit hole trying to sit and analyse analytics data. Maybe the answer is staring at you in the face.

The event ended up becoming a master class in Hotel PR and Digital Marketing and I believe that everyone went home with something new that they might be able to implement into their own PR strategies.