IHF Webinar: What We Learned

For any of you who missed our webinar in association with the Irish Hotels Federation last week, we’ve collated some of our key takeaways here. Read on and learn how any brand in the hospitality industry can respond effectively to the pandemic and plan for the future

 

It’s clear that the hospitality industry is facing what might be its biggest challenge yet – now, and over the next few months. This is a serious situation, but what’s imperative here is that businesses stay future focused and concentrate on what they can do to respond to the new circumstances. Responding effectively is simple – brands need to “ACT.”

 

ACT is an acronym for three key steps: Assess, Change, and Take Action. Brands need to be proactive when it comes to implementing this framework and making the necessary changes needed to protect and strengthen their business.

 

Assess

Assessing your brand is the first, most crucial step. How does your brand look right now? Take a look at the basic things – do you have a covid-19 message on your website? Have you provided your customers with the information they need to know? Now is the chance to spend some time updating your website and your brand materials. 

 

Other areas brands should be assessing are around customers, trends and marketing. Ask yourself what are your customers interested in right now? What do they value and what will they want after the pandemic? Are they using any channels they weren’t using previously? These insights are what will help you make more informed decisions. 

 

When it comes to marketing, many are wondering whether it’s ok to continue to advertise. The short answer is a ‘yes’ but it comes with a qualifier. One of the most important issues here is messaging, brands need to be careful to use an appropriate tone of voice, leading with empathy and avoiding messaging that is overly sales-focused and out of context with the current pandemic environment. Care should be taken, but you should definitely be communicating in some form. Brand silence is simply not an option. 

 

Authenticity is even more important today than ever. Brand purpose is a significant factor in buying decisions. What’s important here is to really make sure your purpose is authentic, that it is being put into action, and that your customers can see it being delivered when they visit. Purpose is more than a marketing message, it is why you exist.  

 

Lastly, employer brand is a crucial part of the assessment process. As we’ve discussed, there is a new set of standards for what people want to see from brands. According to PwC, Millennials are over five times more likely to stay when they have a strong connection to their employer’s purpose. Doing right by your people is not just the right thing to do, it will have a huge impact on your brand reputation. You want this to be positive, rather than negative, and so now is the time to ensure you are assessing your people needs and responding effectively. 

 

Change

 

Following your assessment of what challenges and opportunities are facing your brand at the moment, next, brands must think more specifically about what needs to change. 

 

There may be work to do regarding your core brand areas – purpose, vision and mission. Your brand may have shifted and this is the ideal time to strengthen these key elements. Consider the values and traits of your brand. Do you need to change your tone of voice to be more empathetic? Furthermore, the impact on your sub-brands, such as spas and F&B offerings, will need to be considered and revised. 

 

When it comes to employer brand, it will be crucial to have the best team on board for when you do decide to open. People are at the heart of the hospitality industry and will have a huge impact on the customer experience. What do you need to do to keep your team members on board, engaged, and support them to deliver their work? Communicate openly, listen to their concerns, and continue to engage with other partners such as contractors and suppliers. Relationships will always be an important part of the business, and now is the time to nurture them, and nurture the culture you want to cultivate into the future too. 

 

From a guest perspective, think about the trends we’re seeing that are going to stick. For example, less international travel, more domestic travel and an increased focus on family and wellness. Consider how you can cater to these customer trends and other potential new requirements such as temperature checks or contactless check-ins. This may require investment in new technologies, or simply some clever ideas. Innovate, think differently, and be ready for when your customers come back. 

 

Take Action

The next step in this framework is to take action, which means implementing these changes. 

 

In terms of brand, reposition your identity to accord more closely with your revised purpose and brand offering if necessary. Alter your messaging to tell your story and communicate with your people and customers more effectively. Execute campaigns which are authentic, and which will engage audiences.

 

When it comes to operations, brands have a big opportunity to introduce new services. Bring new technology into your hotel, implement new hygiene measures, organise your F&B outlets to accord with social distancing guidelines – whatever needs to be done to make sure you can open your doors and greet guests with confidence. Think broadly, and consider partnering with other businesses or organisations locally to help you offer new packages and experiences for guests. 

 

Lastly, make sure your people have everything they need to complete their work and feel secure. This may mean offering new training, increased flexibility or other changes in working conditions to ensure staff safety. 

 

Conclusion

Overall, from the data we have seen, people are planning for the other side of lockdown. People are thinking about where they want to go, and what they want to do. Brands need to make sure they are at the forefront of their customers’ minds when they make those decisions, and that they are ready to welcome guests back. 

 

Our top five key takeaways:

 

  1. Get focused on your target market: Consider how it may have changed, any new elements or channels to consider and how to use messaging most effectively. 
  2. Innovate: Think differently to design new packages, new products and services, Consider collaborating with partners to market destinations more holistically. 
  3. Be flexible: Allow flexibility where appropriate on bookings, hotel policy and people operations. In a more proactive sense, be agile when it comes to trialling and testing new developments and marketing activities. 
  4. Educate your team: After all, these are the people guests are going to meet, and this will make a big impact on your brand. Get ready with hygiene teams and communicate to your guests and your people how you are managing these operations.
  5. Get brand on the agenda: For your partners, stakeholders and boards, brand is a core element of how you will manage this crisis effectively. Get brand high on the agenda to futureproof your business.

 

In short, now is the time to ACT. To explore how we can help you implement this framework and prepare your brand for bounceback, get in touch by phone 01-539 7939 or by email proof@thepuddingbrand.com