Read about any good marketing campaigns lately? Consider Bedside Reading. It’s a company started by Jane Ubell-Meyer, a former television and film producer and book lover. Bedside Reading provides books as amenities in luxury hotels. The mission is to help authors build their fanbase by connecting their books to readers and providing hotel guests the opportunity to unplug and delve into the world of words at highly sought-after destinations.
The thinking, said Ubell-Meyer, is that guests at luxury hotels would appreciate something other than a chocolate mint on their pillow -- she calls her volumes “book candy” -- and an amenity they can take home aside from a miniature bottle of shampoo.
Publishers pay Bedside Reading a marketing fee because, aside from the hotel placement, books are promoted in the media, social media and to a customer base. They are vetted so that nothing controversial or inappropriate is placed in rooms.
The concept expanded to include hotel book readings and VIP parties featuring authors. Another option was a story time where children’s books would be read by hotel staffers. Those events, said Ubell-Meyer, began to take on a life of their own. Since its founding in 2017, Bedside Reading has been growing nicely, with an admirable portfolio of high-end properties.
And then came the pandemic. Ubell-Meyer adjusted quickly. First she created an online magazine called, yes, Bedside Reading, with the publication recommending books that could be purchased.
Shortly after the pandemic started, one of Ubell-Meyer’s hotel clients asked if it could offer a virtual book club with regular guests. Said Ubell-Meyer, “For us, this was a chance to say to hotels ‘you may not be at full occupancy, but here’s a way to reach out to existing guests and remind them of how you’re thinking about them.’”
Other client hotels got creative with Bedside Reading. Conrad New York Downtown, for instance, started an Instagram video campaign that included interviews with New York authors.
Then in September, Ubell-Meyer launched “Beside Reading on the download.” The company provides e-books and audio books to hotels, with eight to 12 selections rotated monthly. The hotels promote the books on in-room TVs or on customized websites. In addition, guests can easily access the books anywhere via customized and scannable links and QR codes.
With this program came a business model change, with hotels paying a fee to help offset costs. And if a guest wants a physical book, Bedside Reading will send one. High-profile properties joined the program, including The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, New York; Waldorf Astoria Chicago; and Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica.
Ubell-Meyer said hotels are staying in touch with guests and potential guests through the virtual program. They are thanking customers for booking a room by sending a book -- or making Bedside Reading materials available on their websites. They can send virtual books at any time - in honor of birthdays, anniversaries or other milestones. “We are giving them tons of marketing content,” said Ubell-Meyer.
There are other avenues of possible expansion. Ubell-Meyer is in touch with meeting planners about offering books as gifts during virtual meetings. And there is talk of international outreach, with possible moves into Canada and Europe.
The bottom line, said Ubell-Meyer, is that “we had to learn how to be flexible and respond instantly to our hotel clients.” She said the company is open to any channels that works toward promoting books, with the hotel gaining the credit. “You’d be surprised,” she said, “at the good will a hotel earns by giving a guest or potential guest a beautiful new book.