Is PR Dead: The Role of Public Relations in Travel and Tourism

is public relations dead
By Dana Baasiri

Traditional mass communication or publicity as we once knew it is a thing of the past. The public relations industry has come a long way in recent years and has undergone significant changes that have challenged its very existence. The rise of digital media, social media platforms, and influencer marketing has led people to wonder whether PR has become an outdated concept. In today’s world, is PR dead, or is it simply evolving to meet the changing needs of the industry?

What is the role of PR in the travel and tourism industry? 

Although PR in itself has changed, its significance has not. With the landscape evolving at a rapid pace,— where earned media has morphed into a dynamic blend of social media, influencer marketing, and digital content — brands may have a knee-jerk reaction and stop investing in PR to shift the budget to more direct-revenue-driving efforts. However, an integrated public relations strategy is critical for travel and tourism brands who are trying to stand out and reclaim their space. In fact, Nielsen found that PR is nearly 90% more effective than paid advertising at establishing, building, and protecting credibility. 

Today, PR in travel and tourism — or any industry for that matter — is much more than press releases and media relations. Public Relations professionals are integral to shaping your brand narrative, securing earned media placements, and tactful collaborations that not only build credibility but heighten awareness, lift brand perception, and manage crisis communications:

#1. Shaping the Brand Narrative & Storytelling: Public relations plays a vital role in shaping your organization’s narrative by helping to establish your brand positioning and defining your key messaging pillars. Through strategic communication and storytelling, PR bridges the gap between your brand and its target audience, conveying authentic, compelling messages that resonate with potential travelers. Whether launching a new resort, rebranding a hotel, or overcoming a negative crisis, a powerful brand narrative can positively impact bookings and build customer loyalty as it evokes emotions, resonates with audiences, and inspires action. 

#2. Deploying An Integrated Marketing Approach: Nowadays, taking a 360˚ integrated marketing approach is crucial as the lines between PR and marketing have increasingly blurred. For your PR to remain relevant and successful, it must work with your overall marketing strategy to increase brand awareness and meet your target audience where you are. Cross-functional alignment is more important than ever, and a good public relations team is one who not only speaks your industry language, but has a deep understanding of how other areas of your business work including your sales, e-commerce, and even operations departments. This includes leveraging SEO-centered media pitches, encouraging backlinks in earned media placements, executing partnerships and campaigns that generate leads or push a specific offer, and even producing on-property activations and events that enhance your guest experience and drive media conversations at the same time. 

#3. Leveraging Omnichannel Marketing: With the influx of communication channels now available to brands, it is crucial for PR to take a holistic approach that targets audiences across multiple touch points. By leveraging multiple communication channels, such as social media, email marketing, influencer marketing, on-air exposure, thought leadership, and web platforms, travel brands can create a seamless and engaging customer journey from initial engagement to post-travel experiences. Through omnichannel marketing, a travel brand can deliver personalized and relevant content and offers, build trust and brand loyalty, and continuously enhance the overall customer experience. With the help of a PR team, travel brands can develop a tailored omnichannel marketing strategy and cohesive messaging that not only meets their business objectives but also drives engagement, bookings, and customer satisfaction.

#4. Evolving Media Relations: Just as the landscape as a whole has evolved, so has media relations — a crucial component to getting earned media placements in top-tiered outlets that target millions of readers, especially if you want to see your travel brand in listicles or in-depth reviews and digital features that come up in search results. Today, earned media placements run the gamut from lifestyle blogs to trade and consumer-travel outlets that not only aid in your SEO strategy but can drive traffic back to your website. While seeing your name in print was a big wishlist item a few years back, unsurprisingly the focus has shifted to digital mediums that reach more viewers and can be measured more effectively with source traffic and link clicks. Ensuring your PR agency is cultivating relations with both staff writers and freelancers will help in seeding meaningful coverage.

#5. Securing Collaborations and Partnerships: An effective public relations team lives outside the box as they are constantly looking for innovative ways to garner awareness for your travel brand. Collaborating with other highly-aligned brands can amplify your reach while also creating new, exciting marketing opportunities. By incorporating promotional partnerships like sweepstakes and giveaways to onsite branded experiences, or even buzz worthy events into your PR strategy, you can generate leads for your e-mail list, target consumers with an exclusive booking offer, and drive revenue over a need period — all while generating organic social media content and conversations within the media landscape.  Overall, successful brand partnerships can be a game-changer for travel brands, offering a valuable way to stand out in a crowded marketplace and build lasting relationships with customers.

Where will PR go from here?

It is evident that public relations has evolved over the years, and its role in the travel and tourism industry has become increasingly important. As the industry continues to grow and become more competitive, having a strong PR strategy can make a significant impact on a company’s success. Given the industry’s track record, we can expect to see more and more travel brands embracing revolutionary PR tactics — from influencer marketing and content creation to out-of-the-box collaborations, emerging platforms like podcasts, and more careful consideration of media relations tactics.

P.S. Did you know Alliance Connection is an integrated marketing and communications firm that works exclusively with travel and tourism brands to leverage earned, shared, and owned media to reach travelers nationwide? Read more about our solutions here.

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