Conversations with a Travel & Hotel PR – Pippa Brindley

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes | 1413 words

I was delighted to take this opportunity to grill Pippa, founder of The Comms Collective PR agency and curator of daily travel inspiration instafeed @theeditinternational, on everything related to hotel PR. 

Her new approach to PR coincides with the biggest shake up the hospitality industry has ever seen – and her progressive PR agency The Comms Collective is leading the way to recovery.

Can you give a brief description of your role as a PR specialist for hotels?

PR is about managing and maintaining a brand’s visibility and reputation – ensuring it remains relevant to its audience in impactful ways. 

Defining/redefining and communicating a brand’s purpose is very relevant in the current climate. We are becoming increasingly conscious about the brands we consume when travelling – which hotels do they stay in, how often and why? Hotels that genuinely show they are doing something good for their community –  their professional community, local community, and their customer community –  are the ones which stand the test of time and have the highest guest loyalty. PR is not just about how to look after a guest on the property, but how you can look after them and foster relationships during the months when they’re not staying. Whether it’s through social media, off-site events or intelligent partnerships with other brands that can filter into their customer’s everyday lives, hotels need to look at communications with a 360-degree approach

What differentiates The Comms Collective from other agencies?

The Comms Collective is set up to serve a recovering market. It presents a new and more relevant approach to PR to reflect today’s communications culture and smarter ways of doing business. We steer away from the conventional agency approach which often comes with a hierarchical team structure, fixed long term retainers and territorialism between different partners. TCC works fluidly and flexibly in alignment with in-house teams and other agencies towards a united goal, as well as being able to provide a network of our own partners in the industry – from branding and design to marketing, social media and events agencies. PR can also be a confusing space to some, so with TCC I hope to empower our clients by bringing them into our space, going back to basics and showing them the ropes so that they fully understand the value of public relations themselves.

What made you want to get into Travel PR and what was your professional journey like?

I always wanted to work in travel in some way. My university dissertation studied luxury travel which led into one of my first internships, with Burgess Yachts. This is where I first delved into the world of marketing within luxury travel. From there I worked at a couple of different PR agencies – from small boutique firms to big WPP companies. I’ve always enjoyed the energy and pace of a PR agency.

I decided to mix it up after about five years in PR in London and found a role in a PR agency in Southeast Asia-  so I moved to Singapore in 2014. This was when I really got into travel as Singapore has Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines on it’s doorstep, and Australia is only 4 hours away, so the client base was incredible.

I then began working at a startup luxury travel PR agency, Vim and Vigour, in Singapore with a really inspiring founder and mentor – we worked really hard but loved every second and the agency went from strength to strength. Today it is one of the most progressive and established PR agencies in Southeast Asia. I moved back to London after five years to set up TCC with a fresh, progressive new approach to communications!

What inspires you about a hotel or property?

The ability to offer complete escapism whilst making you feel like you’re at home!

How do you think a hotel makes people feel at home?

By blending seamlessly into its surroundings, to feel as though it was always supposed to be there or it always has been. I’ve always preferred laidback service, natural and unforced, with familiar staff who know how to strike a good balance between being warm but not too friendly..! Spago in Singapore is great at this.

Do you think that smaller hotels can present a more homely feel?

I think you can achieve intimacy with both large and small hotels with intuitive and intelligent use of space, design, music and lighting. I always remember hotels that have a signature smell and floral setup. I love the Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore and Waldorf Astoria in Bangkok for this. 

If a new hotel wants to work with you and your team, where do you begin when finding and telling their brand's story?

Looking for ways to rediscover the past whilst still thinking for the future  – identifying the property’s history and heritage and bringing it into a new more relevant context that resonates with the target customer. This can be achieved through minor detailing in branding and guest experience, local partnerships and innovative programming.

When it comes to hotel reputation management, how should hoteliers deal with negative reviews?

9 out of 10 times a bad review can be avoided with a good PR team!  But if it does happen, you just have to be ready to redeem yourself and ensure you have a good crisis comms plan.

Occasionally as a PR you must have to deal with disasters and saving the face of brands. What are the steps when recovering a brand's reputation?

The most important thing is to ensure that internal and external communications are aligned and that everyone in the business knows the steps in place to ensure effective recovery. When it comes to the media – you need a consistent spokesperson and message.

What is the biggest mistake that you often see hotels or hospitality brands make in relation to PR and what would you suggest they do instead?

PR is about storytelling and good writing – and I often still see some very badly written press releases and website copy! 

With the advent of the internet, brand coverage has increasingly moved online, is offline coverage able to compete with regards to speed and cost-effectiveness?

In the luxury space, traditional print coverage still has its place – people still value being able to pick up and flip through a glossy magazine – it’s more appealing than scrolling through the internet and comes with permanence, credibility and prestige. But they still require huge adaptation and innovation in order to stay relevant in a digital world – only the very best titles will stand the test of time in the print space!

What are the key PR elements to consider when repositioning a hotel within the market?

Make sure it’s not all just about one big launch party/month. Hotels need to have a PR sustenance plan to maintain momentum post launch too –  a series of events and news to roll out over the year to ensure that the property remains front of mind. 

Quick-fire round︱Get to know Pippa

  1. Morning Routine

    I get up, check my email and social media etc. and shower. I walk to work – currently Soho Works in London – I take the scenic route along the Thames, which is really nice this time of year, and use the time to catch up on podcasts. 

  2. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received

    Just to remember that we are all winging it! No matter how important you are professionally, we are all human, no one is perfect.

  3. Favourite song

    Anything by Mark Ronson, old and new.

  4. Style icon

    Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss and the Olsen twins.

  5. Favourite drink

    I love Nyetimber British sparkling wine, especially their Demi-Sec. I used to do the PR for Nyetimber and learned a lot about it and was lucky enough to drink lots of it!

  6. Favourite food

    Sushi is a daily go-to at the moment – perfect during the summer months!

  7. Favourite activity

    River walks and runs, Barry’s Bootcamp when open, travelling and shopping!

  8. Favourite country to visit

    Having recently returned from Southeast Asia, I’m loving getting reacquainted with Europe. I absolutely love France for the food and the wine, and the hidden corners of Ibiza. Puglia is next on my list. 

  9. Travel essentials

    Dry shampoo, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour cream, my Kindle, loads of moisturiser, headphones! I plan my outfits beforehand rather than just throwing all my clothes in a suitcase – makes everything easier on arrival!

  10. Favourite hotel & why

    Not a hotel but Rascal the luxury yacht – a traditional Indonesian phinisi yacht with unforgettable, once in a lifetime, cruising experiences in Indonesia’s beautiful archipelago. 

To further amplify your brand’s message apply for The Comms Collective PR Assessment.

This assessment takes a look at your current setup and identifies strategies for you to scale back and streamline as well as opportunities to amplify through collective expertise. Based on the goals and the tactics you currently have in place, we review your existing marketing plans, communications materials, and ways of working and advise on what needs refreshing, redirecting or repositioning. Click here to learn more.

Find daily travel inspiration on Pippa’s feed @theeditinternational

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