PUBLIC RELATIONS THE STEP BEFORE ADVERTISING AND MARKETING
by Sue White, Carol Matos and Sparks Rejent Moeller
This particular column has turned into a two part series. This morning as I served breakfast in my dining room to four guests at my Private Home B&B, this column took a turn in my mind. Here sat a couple from England and an adult mother/daughter team from Vermont, graciously accepting my early morning hospitality. As they ate, cheerfully thanking me for serving them, these four people wound up recommending visits to England and to Vermont to one another. Tomorrow I imagine they will compare notes on today's visit to local sites in Newport.
The English have brought their own tea bags, and last evening I got out a china teapot so they could properly brew tea when they wish. The Vermonters stashed their bikes under my deck, ready to enjoy our fall weather outdoors. After breakfast, my Englishman asked if we had a Costco in Newport. His canvas bag's seams had given way. Off we went to my office so he could go on the web and find the nearest store, the download the map to the location. Off they now have all happily gone.
There is nothing new about these stories. Every host in my reservation service could well top me with better ones. What struck me once again is that HAPPY COMFORTABLE GUESTS!!! are the end result of excellent public relations. As one of my first and favorite hosts used to always remind me, "Your are only as good as you last performance!"
So often PR is confused with advertising through varied media. It simply describes our relationship with various publics. So now let us begin with defining those publics and what role they play in your success.
1. GUESTS: potential and actual
Their sense of well-being and the money they bring are the true sources of your success. Empty rooms have no value. Full rooms with happy guests is your first PR goal.
2. LOCAL BUSINESSES
Wherever possible work with other local businesses. Peruse your local phone directory and evaluate how each business or organization may help you. Use your imagination. A local funeral home may need space for out of town mourners (often mid week business.) Purchase materials and supplies locally. Perhaps they will special order and also give discounts for buying regularly and in bulk.
3. VARIOUS PROFESSIONALS
Remember not only you but your guests may need a physician, a dentist, a real estate agent, to name a few. You will certainly want to find a lawyer very conversant in local zoning and tax law. An interior designer can help you build a timely and cost effective plan for decorating your B&B. An accountant who understands your business can aid you in setting up your accounts, planning a budget as well as "do" your taxes.
Affiliation with a variety of appropriate organizations will provide immeasurable benefits. Types you may consider will run the gamut from local to state to national to international. Among them will be chambers of commerce, small business groups, visitors and convention bureaus, trade and hospitality associations, fraternal groups. Review each one to assess how they will benefit you and your business.
Definitely be aware of your local, state and national bodies of government. Know your legislators and where they stand on small business, tourism, taxation, etc. Find out which departments at each level of government will have power in regulating your business and tourism and environmental issues in general.
5. PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
Currently there are a wide number of associations associated directly with lodging. Find out which ones welcome B&B hosts and what benefits they will provide you. You will note that they exist on local, state and national levels. Read trade magazines to get the names and the addresses.
6. RESERVATION SERVICES
Reservation services do just that: find reservations for your B&B. Some are nationally affiliated. Some are local or statewide only. Some are online. Affiliation with at least one service of your choosing will help you in a variety of ways, especially before you have reached every innkeeper's dream: THE HAPPY RETURN GUESTS and the referrals of their friends and their relatives to fill your rooms.
Well, have fun meeting all of these people and joining some organizations. Your have truly now begun the journey of GREAT PR! Our next column will present more.
Authors: Susan White founded Anna’s Victorian Connection, a reservation service for RI, in 1979. Carol Matos owns and operates the American Country Collection of Bed and Breakfast in eastern New York as well as her own B&B. “Sparks” Rejent Moeller owns the design firm “Second Opinion Interiors” and has done residential and commercial design for six years.