Guest article by By Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director at Energy PR
PR is a phenomenally powerful tool. Used well it can separate a company from the pack, win over hearts and minds, educate people and drive demand for a product or service. So it always surprises me that coach tour operators – who still suffer from many misconceptions about their product, and who have to fiercely compete – don’t make better use of it.
Especially as there are now so many things in a PR practitioner’s toolbox – online and print editorial, broadcast, influencer marketing, events, content creation, social media, blogging, vlogging etc– which are ideal for reaching the modern coach tour user or those who might be willing to try a coach tour for the first time.
Tap into Audiences
For instance, one of the trends is TV tourism – ‘Game of Thrones’ inspired trips to Northern Ireland, Poldark themed trips to Cornwall and so forth. These offerings are perfect for the digital age as they are aimed at groups who, thanks to social media channels, are incredibly easy to reach. After all, they are on the social channels talking about the programmes, following the stars and using the programmes’ hashtags. It’s also easy to reach the people online who influence such TV programme fans – TV critics, bloggers, superfans and the like.
Of course, not all Poldark fans are on social media, but a skilled PR practitioner will also be adept at getting that TV-inspired trip covered by mainstream media too. What’s more they will be able to come up with campaign ideas for the trip which work both on social and mainstream channels, reaching the potential customer wherever they graze for their information.
I appreciate that TV-related trips may not be what your business is about, but if you are involved in– ecotourism, wellness tourism, activity based tours, historical trips, culinary experiences, tours of classic cities, any type of trip at all – all lend themselves to the same principal of finding the niche audience and their influencers and targeting them with something fresh which they can share.
So, if social channels combined with mainstream media make it easy to identify and reach very specific audiences what then? Well, you then need to engage with them. Again, this is where PR comes into its own. There’s any number of creative PR tactics which would provide a new way of talking about your offering.
I’m not talking about boring press releases! Of course, factual releases which outline the nuts and bolts of a tour on offer have their place, but for cut through you need to be more creative than that. Ideas which engage with the audience and their interest and give you an excuse to talk about your trip. For instance, when promoting those TV-themed tours you could run PR tactics to find the ultimate super fan or character lookalikes, run ‘Playbuzz’ style quizzes where people can see which character they are, host special initiatives with TV bloggers or create fun stories based on little known programme facts.
These are just top of head ideas. Any tactics need to be carefully developed to work on whatever media platform the target audience favours and of course they must provide scope for tour details and links back to the booking site to be carefully woven in.
Whatever you’re offering, the secret is for your PR content and tour proposition to work hand in glove. For instance, if it includes people ‘doing something’ – gin distilling, pottery – build content around these into you PR activity. That could be creating guides to gin tasting, sharing gin-based cocktail recipes, hosting pottery how-to videos, or featuring an interview with Kate Malone from The Great Pottery Thrown Down. Something which elevates your content – and therefore your offer – from the norm.
Your drive for a PR hook might actually inspire your tour’s content! For example, if you are offering a green getaway, add some highly PR-able elements into the itinerary – tree planting, wild swimming, wildlife spotting as part of a conservation programme. Then amplify these elements through clever PR tactics in the media.
I don’t care how ‘every day’ your tour is. The potential for PR to help you reach and attract customers has never been stronger. So, if you want people to take a fresh look at what you are offering, I suggest you take a fresh look at your PR.
Louise Findlay-Wilson is managing director of Energy PR. Over the years her agency has handled PR for tourism clients including St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Millets Farm and The Landmark Trust.