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September 5, 2011

Hilton Hotels & Resorts Innovative PR Campaign Launches the Hotel Industry's First-Ever Online Media Center

By: Jim Bucci

When Hilton International united with Hilton Hotels Corporation, a new identity for the parent company of the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand was established through Hilton Worldwide, creating an opportunity for the world's most recognized hotel brand to reconnect with media around the world. But, in order to expand outreach beyond the United States to 75 additional counties where Hilton operates, these properties throughout the world needed the means and flexibility to develop their own media relationships as well as their messages from the brand's voice.

To share the Hilton story, engage media on a global level and support their more than 540 hotels and resorts, they created the Hilton Global Media Center (HGMC), which represented the hotel industry's first comprehensive online resource for the media. Designed to act globally, but "speak locally," the online media tool sought to be a one-stop-shop for everything Hilton-related.

"The Hilton Global Media Center (HGMC) was envisioned when we saw tremendous opportunity in creating one central collection point for reporters to find everything they needed to learn about what is happening within our brand and across our hotels," explains John Forrest Ales, director of global brand public relations for Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

"The Hilton Global Media Center has transformed the way we interact with media and driven a direct increase in our share of voice and media coverage prominence," he continues.

The Strategy: Develop a Central Locale for Reporters to Find Everything They Should Know about the Hilton Brand and all its Hotels: Hilton Global Brand Public Relations recognized the need for a media center for journalists to easily access property news and photographs from Hilton Hotels & Resorts. Working with Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Covalent Logic, who also designed and produced the site, they conveyed the message of innovation.

The online media center would not only serve traditional journalists, but the new, up-and-coming category of media professionals with a site that blended innovation, style and reach.

The Hilton Global Media Center accomplished several objectives, which included extending PR hospitality to media professionals seeking information about any of the Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide in a timely, efficient and accommodating manner and improving the response speed to media queries by leveraging new media. The online media center rejuvenated the brand's languishing reputation as an industry maverick and provided the global network of properties the ability and autonomy to promote their hotels, while also supporting the brand.

"Operating a successful news bureau is the cornerstone of everything we do as a global brand PR team," says Ales. "A great deal of time was spent talking with media and understanding their realties in the digital age so that we could be a better resource for them. After all, hospitality is an authentic part of who we are as a brand."

By incorporating dynamic translation features and other tools, Hilton can now directly engage media members who speak the languages of the 78 countries in which they operate in as well as dozens of other dialects around the world.

"The site also gives media instant access to thousands of high-resolution images, all of our press releases, videos, a team member micro blog, our press kit and other information," he says. "The 'back of house' features give our internal team direct control over the site so that we can instantly publish news, update content and directly email groups of media through a custom-built communication manager."

The Challenge: Launch a Global Website for Domestic and Foreign Media Members: With Hilton hotels in the United States and located in several foreign countries, global execution became a key focus for the campaign.

"Our agency partner Covalent Logic helped us not only address the need to find an affordable, reliable solution for auto-translating the site, but also in finding creative ways to introduce the site to media," Ales explains.

"Creating individual property profiles for all of our hotels was a challenge, given the size of our portfolio," he continues. "But we knew property level content would drive media to use the tool and our primary objective is always to drive value for our hotels."

The Results: The Hilton Global Media Center Receives Increased Coverage—Users Represent an Array of Countries: After only two and a half months in play, Hilton Hotels & Resorts saw a 10 percent increase in coverage due to the Hilton Global Media Center. Users representing 85 different native languages, including English, Japanese, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Turkish have accessed the HGMC site. The media center has attracted 244,967 page views and more than 2,600 downloads of photos, while e-newsletter subscriptions topped 3,300. The site's global reach is evident by more than 85,402 visits from 172 countries.

"Beyond calculating ROI and other analytics, we found success in the fact that the HGMC is recognized internally and externally as a setting for the telling of the Hilton story," Ales offers. "It is an essential starting point for our relationships with media and our hotels continue to engage the site in high numbers."

Secrets to Success: Read on as Ales offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Gold in "Best Online Newsroom—Business/Consumer" at the 2011 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations & Publicity.

  • Let the needs of your customers guide your efforts: "I genuinely believe that designing the site from a reporter's perspective and understanding that the reporters covering Hilton live in all corners of the world positioned the site for long-term success," he says.
  • Constantly introduce your product—tell your audience how it helps them: "Even the most well designed website can't take you anywhere without traffic," he offers. "Covalent Logic and our lead PR agency Murphy O'Brien worked with us to constantly introduce reporters to the site and remind them of the ways it can help them. We also designed an aggressive postcard campaign in our core markets worldwide and a global email campaign to launch the site. All of our media materials included URLs and we provided each property with a vanity URL to use in its individual press outreach."
  • After you launch your campaign, continue to improve and innovate: "We have continued the site's innovation," he offers. "There are a number of exciting things underway at Hilton—from launching our first global spa concept to opening hotels and entering new countries to redefining what a resort experience should be for modern travelers. The Hilton Global Media Center houses landing pages for these areas and other core initiatives so that we can continue to evolve and enhance the site."

Winner's Profile: Hilton Hotels & Resorts is the flagship brand of parent company Hilton Worldwide. The brand is one of the 10 that comprise Hilton Worldwide. Covalent Logic is an integrated marketing firm providing design, programming and strategy for business and government. Based in Los Angeles, Murphy O'Brien serves clients in luxury hospitality, real estate and lifestyle arenas.

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