Proving the Power of Story: Part Two, Combined Social Effect

philbutler
Phil Butler Owner/Partner, Pamil Visions PR

Posted on October 4th 2013

Proving the Power of Story: Part Two, Combined Social Effect
Two weeks ago I reported on how public relations enters into the digital mix of communication channels today. For a long time proving the ROI of PR was a splinter in the side of many. Today, the release of a study by leading hospitality marketers, World Independent Hotels Promotion (WIHP)* offers more clarity where converting consuimers is concerned. In today's report we'll shed some light on the effectiveness of not only social media, but other marketing channels and public relations efforts as well. 
 

TripAdvisor, Friends, and Media Converge

First and foremost for those of us studying the social media phenomenon, telling of today's events is best approached from a sort of "real time transparency" perspective. That said, already this morning our PR outreach to various authors, and even hotel clients, bears witness to just how fast so-called "convergence" business methods are morphing. The graph below offers some clues for those in the hospitality business, and even to advertisers targetting the niche.  
 
WIHP Guest Survey 2013
 
WIHP's study on guest choices shows TripAdvisor as a perfect and powerful case study for this, as well as a possible negative shift away from SEO and conventional search. First, the "How did you find a hotel?" guestion is answered via the Tnooz report here. Also interesting within this context is how fast Editor Kevin May and author Karthick Prabu processed the news - and via what channels. As we move fast into a "full mobile" business and consumer phase of business, near-instant interchanges become more prevalent. Below is a rough timeline with social implications. 
  1. Email the news to Tnooz editor and staff
  2. Tweet Kevin May a good morning and heads up
  3. Skype message received from editor Tnooz
  4. Email from Karthick on disposition of search
  5. Follow with Kevin May on Skype
  6. SMS to WIHP's Martin Soler for search clarity
  7. Exclusive quote and search findings clarified

Those mentioned may cringe at my publicizing this, but herein is a fascinating aspect of the B2C and B2B communication matrix. The actions mentioned above, including myriad other duties being carried out by all, took less than an hour and thirty minutes. That includes the writing of the post as well. Now this is not some blatant plug for our own PR serices, I assure you. Kevin May treats news as news, period. What should be significant is how customers, businesses, and the media are intertwined.

Identifying a Morphed Marketing World

A previous report by WIHP, also published by Tnooz and other outlets, talks about the "Moment of Truth" theories put forth first by Procter and Gamble, to describe the purchase cycle for customers. Later, this topic was amplified by free thinkers like my friend Brian Solis (who added the Ultimate Moment plus more). While a casual look at the new WIHP data seems to maximize OTAs and TripAdvisor, a phone conversation this morning with WIHP's Chief Commercial Officer, Martin Soler, speaks of social media impacting these decisions (potentially) far more dramatically, and I quote; 

"Social media's impact on the buying decision is not readily seen in our study. In the past we have considered Facebook, Twitter, and the other channels as only modifiers and lesser marketing channels. However, if we look deeper into these channels, and combine aspects of TripAdvisor with Family and Friends, then social media quickly becomes the dominant marketing force behind booking decisions."


Soler and I have been discussing this for a year actually. What marketers have identified as purely marketing or advertising effect is, in fact, a combination of the traditional "triad" of PR, marketing, and advertising, now intertwined within a new digital business framework - a framework changing so fast, that we are struggling to keep up. With a "changed" TripAdvisor in the spotlight (Soler also suggests TA shifted to independent hotel focus), let's revert back to our BrandWatch tool for even more PR clarity.

Petter Stordalen & Nordic Momentum

The previous aformentioned report here on Social Media Today brought forth an interesting case study, plus an interesting Scandinavian billionaire, owner of Nordic Choice Hotels, Petter Stordalen. I mention his name again because "story" elements are crucial facets of media outreach, and consequently customer conversion as well. Tracking a billionaire nixing porn at his hotels, and superimposing some social media "juice" is a bit of dream work, or child's play, for reaching people. Readers tend to enjoy those elements, if you know what I mean. 

Nordic Choice

A loose collaboration with Nordic Choice's Thief Hotel in Oslo allowed us some insight. Some may remember when Stordalen took all the pornography from his TV channels out, in support of abused children etc. In the graphic above using BrandWatch to monitor social and other mentions of Nordic Choice Hotels. You will denote distinct peaks and valleys, which we purposely either contributed to, or refrained from mentioning the hotel group on. It's the "valleys" which bear the most scrutiny, actually. 

What you are seeing is an overt, unsolicited PR effort set onto a hotel news instance. What that means simply is, I set out to purposefully spead a good news story with the right components. Later, we contacted The Thief and Nordic Choice to garner some loose data for proving out this effort.

Now, in the screenshot below you see isolated TripAdvisor mention instances over the course of our testing the brand, in the valleys and for some of the peak moments. This was taken from the "general" tab of referenced mentions, there are other TripAdvisor and even OTA instances in other categories.

TripAdvisor

As was suggested by WIHP's Martin Soler, what ends up being more true is that TripAdvisor is, in fact, a social media conduit, as much as it is a booking, or review engine for travelers. As most experts would agree, this is by design, particularly since the service leaned toward smaller brands too. Other travel booking sites like Stay.com, which offers deeper destination guides etc., and even traditional OTAs and booking portals like Hotels.com, these too end up as part of the social-digital channel. Then factoring in something WIHP and others know about via these surveys, the fact that many takers actually forget that "Friends and Family" suggest hotels and other commodities, and you have exactly what Soler explains in his passing quote above. 

Summary of Part 2

For those of us in the business of providing cutting edge advice, actions, or delivered products to clients, staying on top of the ball is vital to survival. WIHP has shown with this and other surveys, how TripAdvisor has rolled with the proverbial punches, to develop into whatever the situation calls for.

As we go forward into a near "full mobile" business environment, speed of adaptation and proving out the best customer experiience will separate successful business from failed ones. I am reminded today of something a friend of mine said recently; "It's the Customer Experience. Stupid" in this superb Huffington Post piece about Brian Solis.

While Brian exhibits a cool most of us do not have over the frustration of "hammering" home these messages, I know he is the least likely to use the "s" word too. That said, pretty soon our proving will be done on the guest experience ruling tomorrow. To quote directly from Paul Gillin's report, he tells Solis it might be hard to enthrall hardware customers searching for hammers, to which Solis replies: 

"I can't think of any business that can't surprise and delight customers." 

If you are out to delight your customers, isn't it a good idea to be where they are? To change your business to suite their needs? And isn't hospitality really about public relations? Stay tuned for part three with more definitive strategies for customer engagement. 

*WIHP is a business partner of Pamil Visions Public Relatons

philbutler

Phil Butler

Owner/Partner, Pamil Visions PR

Phil Butler is editor-in-chief of Everything PR and senior partner at Pamil Visions PR. He’s a widely cited authority on beta startups, all things social, search engines and public relations issues, and he has covered tech news since 2004. Phil has covered tech and social for ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Profy, SitePoint, Search Engine Journal, The Epoch Times, Silicon Angle and many others. Check out Phil's Google + profile too. 

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