The following message was disseminated to all Screen Pilot clients and stakeholders on Tuesday, March 24. While breaking news stories continue to rapidly unfold, the landscape in which you should be communicating with prospective travelers is constantly changing.At Screen Pilot, we know that circumstances outside of your control may be leading to tough business decisions and drastic changes in operations.But, we believe there is positivity and light to be shared from your brand - and that there are still many stories to be told.It is important to understand the concerns and subsequent information needs of guests past, present, and future. COVID-19 has slowed travel, eating out, spa visits, and more. However, prospective travelers still want to do all of these things, and wanderlust for them, maybe now more than ever.Hotels and resorts are still a source of travel inspiration for people around the world compelled to practice social distancing. This could be great to leverage for your brand in the long term. Hospitality teams are uniquely positioned to provide resources and reassurance that will help their communities weather social distancing. Use this as an opportunity for your brand to build an even stronger community.Our teams have created a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” specific to content marketing which can hopefully act as a resource and guiding light for internal decision making over the next few months. Similarly, the recommendations below the “do’s” and “don'ts” are intended to inspire and help you discover the stories you can tell during this time of uncertainty.Work with your SEO & CRO teams to implement some of these recommendations that will help you identify which stories to tell during COVID-19 - and which ones to tell once this has passed.
Develop a COVID-19 digital marketing playbook. Document your brand’s stance on COVID-19.
- This should include:
- High-level messaging pillars.
- As a brand, how and where are we talking about COVID-19? What words and phrases are we using specifically?
- Consider - who are your spokespersons for these messaging pillars?
- Content governance.
- First, define an efficient process to create a workflow. Structure for approvals, structure for who exactly is responsible for what, and structure on timelines and turnarounds.
- Then, define the substance. Weave your high-level messaging pillars and principals into everything you publish.
- Finally, define substance.
- Lines of Business: which do you want to focus on during and after COVID-19/social distancing?
- Guest Personas/Guest Type: Who do we want/need to continue to speak to? Who do we need to be sensitive to? Locals may be more able to visit your hotel than travelers from other states. Certain job types or employer categorizations may be sensitive to travel messaging during this time.
Think outside the box.
- Demand may still exist in the places you least expect it. Room nights may not be off the table just yet - depending on the market you’re targeting and booking windows. Consider locals looking for a change of scenery while still adhering to social distancing standards. Or, other travelers who may be looking to book packages with no cancelation fees a bit further out.
- Challenge yourself to think beyond room nights. This is a period where you might step away from a focus on ROAS and think about how you can engage with your target audience within this cultural moment.
- What are the relevant ways your property can participate in the social distancing conversation?
- How can you help prospective guests through this period of isolation?
- What are pieces of content that you can develop now that you can leverage as part of your post-COVID-19 promotions? (See a few of our recommendations and ideas below.)
Ensure your paid, earned, and owned messaging are consistent.
- Conduct a brief audit of your channels. If you haven’t posted to your Facebook Page in a while, this is a great time to update.
- When you start (or continue) publishing posts, be sure you’re telling the same stories on social media as you are on your website as you are in your promotions (if relevant). Consistency is key in building a community.
- Consider repurposing an existing piece of content with messaging that better matches the current state of affairs, or create something fresh and new.
- Consider - what email marketing and messaging are you sending out? If your media is paused and your tone is non-promotional, your email content should adapt. Use instead the resources you are creating from our inspiration list below in email blasts and continued circulation.
Lean on your existing brand characteristics.
- Is your brand easy-going? Continue to be easy going. Is your brand informational? Continue to be informational.
- Your impulse may be to “reign in” whatever personality your brand has or default to plain messages about COVID-19 protocols and precautions and updated cancellation policies. Resist if you can. Communicate the information you need to share in a tone that is authentic to the brand you built but still appropriate. It’s that brand that entices people to read more or follow you to begin with. Don’t abandon that now. Past and future guests will appreciate the familiarity of a brand that they can connect with.
Don’t provide any insights on the public health response to COVID-19.
- It may not be our place to tell the public whether or not it is safe to travel. Leave that to the proper authorities. The last thing you want is to claim mixed messaging from health authorities.
- You may link out to statements from qualified sources about the safety of travel locally and domestically. Reference the CDC’s list of global travel statuses.
Do not proceed as if COVID-19 isn’t happening. Not acknowledging the global state-of-affairs could make you seem distant and, in some cases, insensitive.
- A statement on your hotel’s precautions and protocols relating to COVID-19 may not be enough.Share with prospective guests how/if their stay might be different. Create messaging surrounding what you’re doing to care for them so they don’t have to worry.
- Don’t go quiet. Join the conversation.
Don’t expect anything in return just yet, or perhaps for a while.
- As people are staying in their homes, they’re looking for ways to connect with the outside world. Your hotel has the opportunity to create those connections and communities.
- Don’t expect these efforts to be tied to a return at this time. Communicating during COVID-19 is about the long game. Remind prospective guests that the world is still out there and that your hotel is part of it without asking them to book a stay.
- These prospective guests will be waiting when it’s once again safe to promote travel.
Things You Can Do Today:
Publish a page or set of pages detailing your property’s response to COVID-19.
- Go beyond the information available at a corporate level if you are able.
- Publishing only your portfolio’s overarching COVID-19 protocols misses out on an opportunity to provide specifics on what your property is doing to protect the health and safety of your guests.
- Responses to COVID-19 are different from Seattle to Burlington to Miami, which means your hotel’s response should be unique, too.
- Create an FAQ-style document and page that can evolve with COVID-19 news and updates.
- Get specific about how you’re managing your different lines of business.
Deep dive into your property’s Google Analytics to discover where you might be losing less traffic than you think.
- You probably know well the status of your revenue reports. But this is a time to dig a little deeper for data points you might not otherwise consider.
- For those who are still booking, what are they booking?
- When are their dates of stay?
- What sections of your site are receiving the most traffic at this time? How can you create content to keep that resourceful and inspirational momentum going
- Are there services you offer that are stable even as others are trending down? Could they be presented or offered in a digital format?
Get familiar with Google Trends.
- Your hotel can satisfy countless search queries beyond “[destination] hotel.” While hotel-related terms might be down, there are queries that are trending up that your hotel can probably capitalize on.
- Go to trends.google.com and enter any and every term you can think of. (Examples: recipes, things to cook at home, at home spa treatments, staycations, spring break at home.)
- Your property has a story it could tell in relation to each of these terms. Build content to meet these trends in a way that participates in the current conversation. Then build off of that momentum when it’s time to promote that you’re back to business as usual.
Develop a COVID-19 content strategy.
- Use the information you find in Google Analytics and Google Trends to develop a content strategy specific to COVID-19. Examples: “Easy things to cook at home” is trending up. Develop a series of recipes from your restaurant to distribute to target guests.
Begin planning your recovery strategy.
- Start to develop messaging surrounding your property’s return to normal operations. Create a shell page in your COVID-19 site section that you can add to as information becomes available. Publish once local and state officials announce the all-clear.
- How can your recovery messaging tie into the messages you distribute during the COVID-19 crisis? How can you mobilize the community you created? Examples: You distributed recipes from your restaurant during COVID-19. Post COVID-19, you re-market to those audiences with F&B specific offers, encouraging them to dine out or go on a foodie getaway.
- What are the recovery needs of each channel? How can you transition back to business as usual sensitively?
- Though it may be tempting to start promoting your best-performing offers, first develop messaging that simply welcomes prospective guests back to a world that travels freely, featuring the on-property experiences and amenities that make your hotel or resort special.
- Craft packages and offers specific to the post-COVID-19 world. Think about how you can combine everything your hotel has to offer in one cost.
- Think eating out AND spa treatments, things your prospective guests have been missing.
- Consider events like family reunions for those who weren’t able to see their loved ones while practicing social distancing.
Ideas You Can Adapt to Your Property:
- Ask your chef to compile their favorite simple recipes. Use these recipes to create pieces of content about meals prospective guests can cook at home.
- Have your event management teams put together a list of their favorite team building activities that don’t require supplies. Develop a piece of content encouraging your target audience to try them at home with their family.
- If coffee houses in your area are closed, develop a guide explaining how to make your cafés best drinks at home using common kitchen appliances.
- Record new virtual tours of the area around your hotel, or popular amenities like your spa or waterpark. You can also repurpose existing brand videos for this. Ask prospective guests to go on a mental vacation with you. Be inspirational as you speak and showcase!
- Create a guide to at-home spa treatments inspired by those you offer at your hotel or resort.
- Create a guide for at-home exercises and meditation practices your guests can do while working from home. Make them family-friendly.
- Compile a complete list of wedding planning tasks and crafts soon-to-be brides and grooms can work on while they’re at home.
- Create an “At-Home Activity Package”. Give prospective guests something fun to do while they practice social distancing that’s still relevant to your hotel. Get your creative teams involved. This is an opportunity to have fun with your hotel’s branding, and your creative teams are going to be the most familiar with how to do that in a way that reflects your brand.
- Create digital games/activities (destination bingo, a website scavenger hunt, etc.)
- Read aloud/Provide video updates of historical facts, interesting information about, trivia-style tidbits related to your property or destination market.
- Turn your resort map or photos into a printable puzzle or coloring book.
Build audience lists with each of the above pieces of content. You can remarket to these lists with any post-COVID-19 promotions once it is safe, and appropriate, to do so. For example, remarket to those who read your recipes with F&B specific offers encouraging them to go on a foodie getaway or finally take that romantic trip together.Screen Pilot’s Content Marketing Team is poised and ready to help you navigate telling your stories. As news continues to unfold daily, we’re here to lend a helping hand and ear to assist with messaging best practices and strategic content marketing recommendations.Stay well,Rachel AndersonDirector of Content MarketingScreen Pilotranderson@screenpilot.com