What does longevity mean at a time when 140 characters convey a message and the 24-hour cycle has been reduced to maybe 24 minutes?
Sometimes -- quite a bit. Here’s one example. This year, Lou Hammond & Associates (LHA), a New York public relations agency specializing in travel, is celebrating its 25th anniversary of representing the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the hyper-luxury brand. When the relationship started, Mandarin had no hotels in North America and six globally. LHA had a handful of employees in its New York office. Now Mandarin has 40 hotels, including several in the U.S., and LHA boasts 40 employees in three offices – and 40 clients.
“When we started,” recalls Hammond, who has worked on the account for the quarter century, “we were doing presentations on a board, then moved to slides, then PowerPoint, to where we are now on the Web.”
While the media platforms have changed, the message has not. “They have never let go of what their brand stands for,” says Hammond; “they have stayed on course in fulfilling their promise. And we have tried to reflect that in how we serve them.”
Through the 25 years, LHA has been through several vice presidents of marketing who were their contacts – and many more hotel public relations managers. But, says Hammond, “they always left us to do the job and there was never a lot of second guessing. We try to listen. We also try to treat each hotel as its own client. Each is different. And the bottom line is, they have great respect for public relations. “
A huge plus for longevity in this case is that if journalists think of Mandarin, they will think of LHA. “Even when people spell their name wrong in a search,” says Hammond, “we get a call. We are their American presence.”
Even as that milestone is celebrated, a less celebratory note emerged for the hotel industry. A massive study of the hotel distribution channel network, conducted by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International Foundation – with support from the American Hotel & Lodging Association and others – was released.
It portrayed a daunting landscape of channels that hotels now have to manage and predicted rapidly increasing costs for bookings if hotels don’t get hold of the situation and ease the trend toward commoditization. One respected travel trade columnist even pointed out that airlines are now in better control of their inventory and pricing than the hotels. For years, hotels had seemed to be the healthier partner in that relationship.
What’s a hotel brand to do? In the face of the onslaught of transparency and channel proliferation, the product will still be central to sales and marketing efforts.
And maybe some good old-fashioned PR.