This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of VRMA’s Arrival magazine
It is often quoted that Bill Gates apparently once said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” Clearly Bill knows a thing or two about building a brand, but why the strong emphasis on PR?
Essentially, PR helps a business to tell its story in a way, and through a variety of trusted sources, that will engage, attract and retain an audience. For a vacation rental property manager, this audience may be owners, guests or strategic partners. The different sources will include news sites, regional newspapers, travel publications, blogger sites, trade and industry platforms, social media channels and a brand’s own blog.
So, in a nutshell, the goal of PR is to achieve earned (not paid for) exposure for your content. The purpose of PR is for this exposure to impact a positive outcome. That outcome may be to affect an increase in awareness, change an opinion or encourage an action. PR in the vacation rental industry is most often used to help a business raise its profile, reach new audiences and strengthen its brand.
But what exactly do we mean by the digital opportunity for PR to develop a brand? In today’s marketplace, virtually every buyer conducts online due diligence in the form of Search. Buyers research. They ask questions, read reviews and they take note of what those they consider to be the ‘influencers’ are saying about a service or product that they are considering buying. 9 times out of 10, what they are really doing is asking Google what it considers to be the most appropriate and effective solution to their question.
According to research undertaken by Expedia in 2015, a consumer will visit 38 websites BEFORE booking a trip. That’s a lot of desk research. In order to be included in the consideration phase of a purchase, a vacation rental brand will need to be included in at least one of those 38 websites.
Of course, advertising and paid search will help you to get to one of those 38, as will listing on the OTA websites. However, it is the strategic use of content marketing and media relations and their tactical deployment that will allow your business to stay there – and for a better return on your investment – especially if you consider the long-term durability and visibility of earned content placement.
As is becoming apparent, Google is increasingly emphasising content over technical gamesmanship in determining what it serves up in Search. It seems Google is taking seriously its remit to provide the best possible and most relevant answers to a search. So content that really understands the needs and interests of the buyer- is rewarded.
And as Seth Godin, digital marketing expert says, “Marketing is no longer solely about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” Seth also suggests that people will only buy from you for two reasons. They know you exist, and they trust you. All that matters are awareness and trust. Storytelling is a powerful way of proving your relevance and building that all-important confidence in your business.
There are four main content delivery channels open to any business including owned, shared, earned and paid for media. Three of these channels will contribute to organic search and will also develop a relationship with a buyer based on trust. Earned content coverage, the primary concern of media relations, also includes blogger relations, working with influencers, customer reviews and thought leadership.
Owned media is everything you own and have control over, so your website, blog, e-books, white papers and social channels. Shared media includes the social sharing (by others) of your content, word-of-mouth referrals and any mentions of you by your strategic partners.
PR and earned media are especially powerful because people tend to trust what other people, especially journalists and other influencers, say about a product or service over what a company says about itself. Both exceptional content and earned media create trust. The trust factor will also extend to including thought leadership articles and opinion editorials written by you but published by a media brand.
Every time you have a positive mention in an article, or are included as a call to action in a travel feature or provide a thought leadership article for a publication, it is an opportunity for your brand and reputation to grow. It’s also (usually) an opportunity to increase the authority and relevance of your website in the eyes (and algorithms) of Google.
About Jessica Gillingham
Jessica is the director of Abode PR, a specialist PR and content marketing agency working solely with clients operating in the international vacation and short-term rental space. Abode PR helps both ‘guest facing’ and B2B brands connect with new audiences through telling their story in the most compelling way, and distributing that story through the most effective channels. www.abode-pr.com