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MMGY Grifco and MMGY Ophir teams have spent the last month in intense conversations with clients all over the world. We have listened to their particular plights, and the issues that each has to deal with as things change weekly, daily and even sometimes hourly. In each case we’ve focused on the best long-term remedies for their business and brands.

The biggest question is “What now”? It is the primary obligation of our PR teams to have the eyes and ears to lead the client. Some clients feel broken and, in the intensity of the present situation, they simply cannot see the way forward. We are turning their heads to the light with a path and plan.

The fact that the media still needs content means we keep rolling. In the process of feeding trends and solutions both to clients and to the media we are both providing therapy to our clients – showing them the promise instead of the dread – and keeping their products visible and relevant for travellers.

One thing is clear: Maintaining a voice in the market is imperative. Stuck at home, consumers are gorging on media content and online platforms are experiencing unprecedented volumes. That hunger means a need for new ideas thus there has never been a more important time to have a PR seeking out – and making – every opportunity for coverage and exposure. We must be storytellers; be quick to recognise trends and novel ideas because in many ways travel and lifestyle communications have never been so “bespoke” – so much about individual conversations to drive new opportunities.

And so, the critical nature of PR in a crisis – and as travellers emerge from the crisis – is twofold. First, we are engaging nonstop with our media partners about the “now”. Second, we are planning and preparing for change and for recovery. In these two respects, when our clients find themselves against the proverbial wall, PR is the fundamental fix of the marketing mix.

For those wise enough and bold enough, PR never diminished but we also have proof that – after the initial shock – it is also reviving for those who utilise it to its best effect. In the middle of a global lockdown some brands are forced to pause their PR effort temporarily, but we are also seeing some travel companies and hotels around the world asking us to do more, not less. Because those brands that are brave with their voice will be the ones that recover fastest. The multiple small advantages that we gain for our clients in this period will compound their brand lustre and recognisability. Their messages are being heard louder in a quieter market, and their relationships with the media and other brand partners are thus strengthened for the future.

These are the brands who will not be playing catch-up when tourism and hospitality begins to bounce back – who will already be on the front foot – unlike those who begin to speak again from a standing start. We know from our MMGY Global research teams that travel resumes quickly and that pent-up demand benefits those who are in place to receive it.

So what does that actually mean?

Keep the Conversations Flowing

Firstly, clients need to talk to their PR teams and remain engaged. The best ideas and solutions can be worked on together and these spring from open and energetic conversations. Working with our clients like this, we are designing robust communications plans for various scenarios and supporting the organisation of re-opening logistics with planning techniques.

Prepare for a More Focused Audience Segment

The present situation, we believe, will speed up a nascent trend in the luxury sector. Guests will be more considered and careful in the holidays they book, with more focused requirements from, and expectations of, the companies with whom they chose to book. At Grifco and Ophir, we are tracking this new wave of sentiment and making it relevant in our planning for clients. We believe UK consumers will book a different type of trip in the coming year but that they will expect a new level of quality in their holidays. In the early stages of recovery, we anticipate that regional travel via car and train will rebound first (and we may even see further micro-segmentation among older retirees and Millennial families on these close-to-home trips). But when we look at historical trends from previous crises, affluent travellers tend to be more resilient and continue to travel even when there is an overall downturn. In the MMGY Travel Intelligence Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI), we are tracking a “resilient traveller” segment that represents 16% of travellers. These consumers tend to be early influencers on a return to the marketplace, and therefore they are a segment that luxury suppliers should influence quickly.

Health – The New Luxury

As we scan for trends, we believe that health is going to be a priority. Do you have a doctor at your hotel? If my family is unwell how will you look after us? Our travel PR plans now include a number of healthcare elements and we are advising clients to prepare to include the best possible healthcare in packages should it be required.

Don’t Press Pause

Those clients that continue to work with their PR teams will be kept abreast of trends like these, which brings me to the “Pause vs. Reduction” question in PR. Those clients that have retained full service, or asked for a reduction in PR are benefiting from strong sounding-boards and the establishment of clear new strategies that include new elements – from medical care to sanitisation. Those who paused efforts could be behind the curve and way off the mark when we have “lift off” again – they will be under pressure as competitors out-perform and gain market share.

Inspire, Support and Be Ready

This is the time to be inspiring and supportive and to guide our clients in a way that is responsible and long-term. Our job is to continue to be motivating – to help our press contacts and consumers to remember that the world continues to be the most wonderful place, that we must not lose heart. Our ability to travel the world will persist. Side by side with our clients we are preparing bounce-back plans, prepped releases, social strategies and planned scenarios that support them as the travel economy resumes.

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