Public relations can be a key part of marketing plans |

Public relations can be a key part of marketing plans

Pat Peeples
Vail, CO, Colorado

Public relations isn’t always the flashiest component part of an organization’s marketing strategy, but when done well, it can be among the most effective.

The Vail Local Marketing District uses public relations to create favorable impressions about Vail among readers, TV viewers and audiences of a variety of new media. While it’s easy to spot the district’s colorful, creative print advertisements, the work of a public relations firm is not always so easy to distinguish.

The results of that work, however, are of extraordinary value. Market research shows that magazine and newspaper articles influence some 80 percent of travel decisions. Destinations that earn significant media coverage are often rewarded with more visitors.

Think of the last time that you flipped through a magazine. Chances are, you stopped and lingered on an article that caught your eye. Perhaps it caused a spark and you folded the page or tore out the article to save for a later date. That article created an impression on you and the subject matter is likely to stay in your mind for a while.

At Peeples Ink PR, we work with the Vail Local Marketing District to identify the right approach to placing favorable news and feature stories. We define strategic direction, determine key messages, target select media and draw on established relationships to maximize exposure among desired audiences. We work closely with our advertising and online agency, HL2 of Seattle, and Untraditional Marketing, which directs special events and promotions marketing. Our objective is to maximize media exposure in a competitive, and sometimes collaborative tourism environment.

How do we measure success? From January through August of this year, there were 1,630 stories about Vail in national and international media, which were read or viewed by some 2.7 billion people. Some of the publications that featured news on Vail were The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, North Shore Magazine, CNN and Yahoo on-line, Cooking Light, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dallas Morning News, Newark Star Ledger, Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News, to mention a few.

A businessman booking a summer vacation may remember an article about Vail he read in the in-flight magazine Hemispheres. Maybe a friend passed along another article on Vail activities and adventures in North Shore magazine. Someone watching “Giada’s Weekend Getaways” on The Food Network this winter may be inspired to book a spring vacation after seeing a piece on Vail. All these articles and programs, along with many others, were facilitated by the public relations efforts of the Vail Local Marketing District.

One of the most effective ways to inspire stories about Vail is to bring journalists to experience it first-hand. During the summer of 2007, the district, working with Peeples Ink, hosted 47 journalists. We nurtured relationships with 50 more journalists who visited in the winter. We worked with managers of Vail Resorts, hotels, restaurants, and events who helped assure that the writers and photojournalists conveyed memorable experiences to their audiences.

Another effective PR tactic is to visit select media representatives in their respective markets. For example, Dallas and Chicago media may be targeted for pitches related to direct air service to Vail, while New York City and Philadelphia media may be prime candidates for stories on cultural attractions like Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the International Dance Festival. Other key markets include Los Angeles, Florida, Atlanta and various communities along Colorado’s Front Range.

Our job is to note trends, be on top of what’s new and find a pitch that will appeal to the audience. It’s part art, part science. It is a constant endeavor.

Placing stories often requires the professional know-how and commitment of many public relations professionals. Peeples Ink works closely with skilled PR professionals from the Vail Valley Partnership, the town of Vail, Vail Resorts, lodging properties and independent agencies representing activities, special events and products. Pooling our collective resources, we provide photography, video footage, story ideas and fact-checking to those writing stories. Quick and accurate responses to journalists’ needs can be the difference between a favorable story and a good idea that’s never fulfilled.

Integration of marketing and public relations efforts has always been fundamental in the district’s work. The goal is to align messages and speak to Vail visitors with a unified voice and with accurate information. Our ultimate objective is to drive business and ensure the guest’s expectations meet the experience we, as a community, have presented to them.

Public relations is an important part of meeting that objective. As winter hits Vail we are now reigniting the public relations effort for summer of 2008!

Pat Peeples is the founder of Peeples Ink PR, Ltd., a Vail Valley public relations firm, and a member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Committee.

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