Archive for the ‘Travel & Leisure’ Category

Social media on tap

Monday, November 23rd, 2009 by Kirsten Mortensen


Today’s guest blog comes from Kirsten Mortensen, a marketing communications strategist based in Rochester, N.Y. who – in the cause of investigating social media best practice – has found herself in the pub…

Many businesses today are wondering whether to invest in social media.

Others are pretty sure they need social media-but haven’t quite figured out how to do it.

And then you have people like Joe McBane, who have taken to social media so naturally it’s become a seamless extension of his business.

Granted, McBane is in the hospitality industry-and if any industry is ready-made for social media, this would be it.

McBane owns the Tap & Mallet, a two-year-old pub in Rochester, New York.

Rochester, if you’re unfamiliar, is a community in the United States “rust belt” best known as the hometown of the iconic film company, Eastman Kodak. McBane himself, however, isn’t a Rochester native. He’s a Sheffield, UK transplant who first put down roots as bar manager at The Old Toad, Rochester’s studied version of the authentic British pub. His Tap & Mallet is something altogether different, however: more an American-style neighborhood bar-but with a decidedly upscale and 21st century focus on craft beers.

McBane’s pub also happens to appeal to a demographic perfectly suited to a social media-based marketing strategy. His customers are students and young professionals-exactly the people who tend to have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, who follow blogs and reach for Google, not the phone book, when they’re planning their weekends.

And McBane is a natural marketer. He loves his business and loves telling people about it.

These caveats notwithstanding, McBane’s experience proves that social media can pay off richly for business owners who take the time to use it.

His strategy is multi-pronged. He has a website, where he publishes his beer and food menus. Because Tap & Mallet’s selection of draft beers changes continually, the site gives customers an easy way to check what’s on tap.

His website also hosts a blog, where McBane posts short articles on the pub and on any topic that strikes his fancy-any topic, that is, that relates back to beer. The blog serves two purposes. It lets customers stay in touch with McBane and his pub. And it serves up a growing collection of beer-related content. That, in turn, contributes to Tap & Mallet’s respectable Google rank: if you search for “beer + Rochester New York”, the pub’s home page appears within the first five or six results.

But it’s Twitter where McBane most clearly demonstrates the power of social media. A year after opening his Twitter account, McBane has cultivated over 500 followers. He’s also recently launched a Tap & Mallet iPhone app that followers can use to check the pub’s menu and even place orders if they want.

Sometimes his tweets are links to web articles about craft beers. (He uses hash tags on terms like “craft beer” and “Rochester” to help people find his tweets via the software’s search function.)

For the majority of his tweets, however, McBane has one goal in mind: give followers an excuse to drop by for a pint. His selection of draft beers is continually rotating, for instance. So McBane tweets when new beers go on tap. He tweets updates when he’s holding an event-a beer social or a pig roast or a tasting. And he tweets Twitter-only specials.

“People like the exclusivity,” he says.

McBane, for his part, likes the fact that it’s marketing with a clear and tangible effect. He’ll broadcast a secret word that customers can use to get a special price-and within an hour or two, fifteen or twenty people will show up.

It’s marketing with measurable results.

But there’s more to it than that. Social media allows McBane to extend Tap & Mallet into the virtual world. “We’re a beer and food community,” he says-and adds that it’s also a business where you “live or die” on your regulars. By making it easy to stay in touch with his customers, social media helps ensure Tap & Mallet regulars return. Regularly.

And it costs McBane pennies-a couple minutes of phone time, his web hosting fees. Nor does he invest huge amounts of time-maybe 20 minutes a day, on average. Convenience, in fact, is a priority. He recently installed a Facebook app so he can update his Facebook page from his phone. His website beer menu doubles as his on-site beer menu-when he needs new copies of the print menu, he prints them out from the site. That way he only needs to update the menu in one place.

McBane hasn’t abandoned conventional marketing altogether. He generally has one print ad running at any given time in one of Rochester’s local weeklies. That, no doubt, helps him reach people who wouldn’t find him on Twitter or Facebook.

But print is a static media, and McBane understands the lure of variety. Even outside the sphere of social media, he gravitates toward marketing ideas that build on the same kind of novelty afforded by a constantly changing beer menu. His pub doubles as a gallery space for local artists, for instance. This generates good will in the local arts community (most artists sell at least one or two pieces per show). It gives customers something to talk about. But equally important, it ensures that the pub walls are periodically refreshed. “You hang pictures on your wall in your house, and after awhile, you don’t see them any more,” he says. “It’s the same here, for our regulars.” Swapping out the art every few months injects a bit of proverbial spice into the pub’s atmosphere.

McBane also recently purchased a 1956 Austin Princess limousine on EBay. (You can see pictures of him towing it to Rochester from New Hampshire ) “It needs some mechanical work and a re-spray,” he says-a paint job that will include adding the Tap & Mallet logo. “I’ll have it on the road next summer.”

At first glance, using an antique car as a marketing tool might seem a world apart from Twitter.

But it’s not. For McBane, a cool old car is all about personality-or perhaps more precisely personableness: a means of connecting, on a personal level, with customers.

And it works. “We grew our business during a recession,” he says. How much? “I would have been happy with this rate of growth in any economy.”

Yes, social media takes a bit of creative flair. And yes, it helps when your target market is social media-savvy. But as Joe McBane has found, for a relatively small investment of time and money, tools like blogging and Twitter and Facebook can seed genuine word-of-mouth-and deliver a measurable benefit to a business’ bottom line.

Back of the Net – England vs Ukraine

Monday, October 5th, 2009 by Rob Brown

The Internet will score a first when England takes to the pitch against Ukraine in the World Cup qualifier next weekend.  It will be the first time ever that a a football match of this import has been broadcast live to fans via the web rather than on a TV channel.

The situation has arisen because the broadcast rights had been picked up by failed sports channel Setanta.  Following the collapse of the broadcaster, fans will watch this weekend’s World Cup clash on their computers.  Media group Perform will  stream the footage on a pay-per-view basis at at a cost of £4.99.

This is a critical moment for television as a medium.  What is demonstrates is that TV is no longer platform specific, or more simply you don’t need a TV to watch TV anymore.  In fact the hundreds of pubs up and down the country who usually pack the bar for this type of fixture must be considering wiring up the PC to the big screen, and if not next weekend then they surely will as this trend continues.   What is really significant is that this is a sporting ‘event’.  Live events were supposed to be the saviour of broadcast TV and the Saturday night schedule reflects this.  If live TV can find a home on the net then how long before content follows advertising spend and goes digital? 

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

It’s just not cricket…

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Chris Bull

Williams - bit of a winker

The word sportsmanship has traditionally had warm, positive connotations. However, recent indiscretions by the Harlequins rugby team and the Renault F1 team have put this into question. The reputation of Harlequins and its former Director of Rugby, Dean Richards, along with the Renault F1 and former Team Principle Flavio Briotore are firmly in the gutter and if things continue in this vein, the term ‘sportsmanship’ may become a synonym for deception, injustice and cheating.

For those who are not avid followers of sport, the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal as it has become known, involved a Harlequins player, Tom Williams, faking a blood injury (by inserting a blood capsule into his mouth) in order to allow specialist kicker Nick Evans onto the field for the crucial final few minutes of the match. William’s mouth was then purposely cut afterwards to make the injury real.

Renault’s deception involved former Renault driver, Nelson Piquet, who after being dropped from the team admitted that in last years Singapore Grand Prix, he was ordered to crash on purpose in order to give team-mate Fernando Alonso a slight advantage after the safety car was deployed.

Perhaps the seriousness of this latter incident is not immediately apparent, but it came to light shortly after Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees was killed, and F1 driver Felipe Massa very nearly so, by debris on the track from another car. When Piquet was ordered to crash, he was not only being ordered to put his own life in danger, but those of every other racing driver on the track – not to mention those of the stewards who are charged with clearing the debris.

These two incidents are appalling and frankly disgusting demonstrations of the lengths some are willing to go not even to win, but to fractionally increase their chances of doing so.

It is enough to make one question whether the spirit of fairplay and sportsmanship is still alive within sports at the highest level, such are the pressures placed on those who take part. However, whilst watching England play Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions trophy recently, my faith was restored somewhat.

During a critical part of the game, Sri Lankan batsman Angelo Mathews collided with an England player while attempting a run. As a result, he failed to get back to the crease in time and was ruled out. A little unfair maybe, but out nonetheless.

However, Andrew Strauss, England’s Ashes-winning captain immediately called his team in a huddle. Consensus was quickly reached that Mathews would have made his ground if it was not for the unfortunate clash, and Strauss informed the umpire to rule Mathews not out and allow him to continue to bat. Why? Because as Strauss commented afterwards “it was the right thing to do.” Strauss chose not to take advantage because it was not sportsmanlike, not proper and quite simply, not cricket.

So if Harlequins and the Renault F1 team want to do something about their flagging reputations, they could do a lot worse than watching a few games of cricket and taking some notes on the spirit in which it is played.

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

Come fly with me, Twitter bird

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Twitter turned three years old this weekend and those who are now converts/addicts must wonder how we ever lived without it. And while Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb has taken the time to hail its significance to social media, Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, is describing how companies are starting to ask questions about Twitter that suggest it’s now considered a serious business tool.

But how is it working for companies and their customers in the UK?

Travel writer, Mark Hodson, has been tasked by the Times to vet the Twitter performance of various travel companies , and interesting reading it makes.

And taking the example of each travel company in turn provides a handy illustration of some of the better principles of using Twitter. So…

Easy Jet – A real human being makes good customer service accessible and fixes problems.

Lonely Planet – Gathers useful/interesting travel tips from real people and makes them easily searchable via a hash tag.

Brittany Ferries – Shares good deals with its Twitter followers.

Mr & Mrs Smith – Is responsive to customer queries.

Black Tomato – Is conversational rather than salesy and drives people to other content online.

Visit Britain – Shares useful ideas.

Thomson Holidays – Communicates to customers’ concerns in a crisis (in this case, flights to places affected by Swine Flu).

Hodson also takes a look at some travel Twitter feeds distinctly underperforming – namely Virgin Atlantic and London City Airport – which share a similar problem: seemingly having no clear idea of what to do on Twitter or why. 

But his appraisal of Butlins’ Twitter feed seems a bit harsh. After all, it provides offers; monitors and responds to discussion of its brand (including Hodson’s piece in the Times); finds and re-uses positive, third party mentions of Butlins; provides teasers for new openings; directs followers to other content online and handles customer complaints openly and sympathetically. Maybe Mr Hodson just doesn’t like Butlins; or maybe I’m still overwhelmed by my 1975 visit to Butlins at Bognor Regis that’s never been bettered.

OK, I exaggerate…

(Thanks to @adrian_johnson for bringing the original article to our attention)

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Ryanair’s Blog Wars – It Gets Visual

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 by Mark Hanson

It’s not just text that your audience can use to comment about you – technology means easily sharable visuals quickly do the rounds as well. Ryanair’s recent problems just get worse…..


Hattip: Antony Mayfield

How Do You Measure A Smile?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Mark Hanson


I do most of my best thinking on holiday and my favourite place to go is the US. My bestest friends live there, I’m obsessed with US politics and media and I generally love the people.

One of the things that always makes an impression on me is the hotel staff. Always friendly and helpful, not (just) in an obviously fake way but asking you the kind of questions that conveys some kind of interest in you having a good time. Frontline staff are such great PR!

I smiled when I noticed this from Josh Bernoff. He stayed at a Hyatt Hotel recently and had to complain. Next time he stayed there he arrived at his room to find nice food and drink and a special note from the manager.

They’d obviously logged him and his complaint somewhere….and done something small but significant that showed they listened and value him.

I don’t know if Hyatt are savvy in social media but they sound like the sort of company that would be.

Arrrrr, did someone say treasure?

Friday, February 13th, 2009 by Marita Upeniece


I love travelling and hiking and treasure hunt used to be one of my favourite childhood games, so weirdly enough I only found out about geocaching a few days ago.

If you also missed the ‘in the know’ boat, it’s basically a high-tech treasure hunt – a brilliant combination of the old-fashioned game and new technology, with Internet and social-networking added to the mix. Geocachers hide and seek small trinkets (caches) at different locations all over the world with the help of GPS gadgets and then log clues and photos on the Internet for other gamers.

Some tourism companies and national parks have already tapped into this growing craze. Brecon Beacons National Park, for example, helps visitors set up caches within the park and also offers special Geocoins with unique tracking ID codes to promote the park.

And with over 700,000 registered caches around the world and a huge following online (abundance of support groups on Twitter and Facebook – the largest one has nearly 14,000 members), I can see why.

New technology is developing fast (the iPhone 3G is great for geocaching), and could open up some interesting opportunities for experiential marketing and PR in many areas, not just travel. Imagine finding keys to a new car in a cache, instead of the usual trinkets? Or bringing your local geocachers together to regenerate parks in disadvantaged areas?

Of course, as with anything new there are potential pitfalls, from someone walking into a lamppost or being arrested for shady behaviour (you might look a bit odd walking down the high street with a TomTom) to the more serious issue of a bomb squad carrying out controlled explosion of your branded treasure cache (read ‘suspicious package’).

Still, I have a feeling geocaching’s here to stay – this week’s Time Out London has devoted a whole page to the subject, and I’ll keep my eyes out for the first big branded campaign.

Indy’s claim “we do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot” might be proven wrong after all!

About Marita Upeniece

Account Manager at Staniforth

Brand – Oh!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 by Jon Clements

What do you call a Skoda with a sun roof? A skip! (dumpster, if you’re a US reader)

Such jokes, unthinkable about Skoda cars now, were testament to the failure of a company to manage its appalling brand image. Certainly, the product didn’t help. But as Spencer mused on Twitter, Skoda moved from “embarrassing purchase to surprisingly good cars” – a “transformational brand”.

But “brand” – that word is everywhere. “So what, dummy?” you might say, and rightly so; working in PR, the concept should be a given.

But now that brands and branding seem to have entered the common vernacular – Top20 Coolest Brands reported in the Daily Star, a compendium of wise words from the experts in the Sunday Times’ business section, and even mid-evening radio programmes devoted to it on BBC Radio 4 – has the concept lost something? Is the alchemy of branding devalued by the possibility that Joe Public is “in on it”?

A useful definition from an unlikely source, legal news site Lawdit Reading Room, says “Many decisions about brands are made by customers emotionally or intuitively rather than rationally”. I never bought into that, reckoning my buying decisions were driven by the head (or, more often, the stomach), not heart. But recalling a trip to the USA, I realised that a brand journey was pure, unbridled emotion:

1. Book Florida/Disney/beach holiday with Virgin in one easy transaction: LOVE Virgin!

2. Arrived to find hotel atrocious – actually fearing for life – and Virgin reps couldn’t give a hoot: HATE HATE HATE Virgin!

3. Pour out heart to waiter at Hard Rock Cafe who vows to help us out: LOVE Hard Rock Cafe!

4. Move to Disney resort hotel. Previously HATE Disney because of prolonged exposure to son’s favourite Lion King soundtrack. Now, LOVE fabulous Disney hotel, even with Inca-themed restaurant.

5. Return flight to UK on same day as discovery of international liquid bomb plot. But, Virgin allows  me onto plane with contact lens fluids. LOVE LOVE LOVE Virgin!

I suppose that whether punters grasp a product’s “brand essence” or not, if you can get hold of their heart strings their purse strings will follow.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''