Hospitality industry operators and employees know one simple truth — our businesses anchor communities. They build tax base, support Michigan’s travel and tourism industry and enhance livability. While the totality of the hospitality footprint across our Great Lakes state is smaller now than it was 18 months ago, we know how resilient the industry continues to be.

Best practices emerged. QR codes replaced paper menus. Streamlined menus became the norm as commodity prices increased and the supply chain has been strained. The traditional patio dining season significantly expanded thanks to outdoor heaters, igloos and luminarias. And the list goes on.

Key issues facing the industry moving forward include maintaining a safe environment; bolstering staff and guest confidence; and weathering workforce shortages, increased labor and commodity costs, and ongoing supply chain issues.

Communication is key.

Guest communication is more important than ever to keep your brand top-of-mind when customers are deciding where to dine and travel. Follow the customer. Devise a communication strategy to engage your customers where they are and in the manner that is most meaningful to them.

Telling your story on TV and radio, in the newspaper, on your website and social media, and through direct e-mail campaigns will elevate your brand, drive traffic to your business and generate revenue. Our clients have reported an increase in sales, reservations and carryout orders immediately following a TV cooking segment or news article. A consistent social media presence also drives business by staying in front of your customers when they are making purchase decisions.

Once you’ve secured an interview opportunity with local media, the work begins! Refine your narrative to best tell your story. Is your business family-owned? Do you have a long history in the community? Do you have a scratch kitchen, family-friendly offerings or happy hour? What are your signature dishes? Speak with authority and enthusiasm.

When doing a live interview, plan to share two or three key messages about your organization. This could include signature offerings and seasonal promotions, and always mention where you’re located and your hours of operation.

Are you ready for your close-up?

Many TV stations continue to interview guests remotely, usually via Zoom or Skype. In addition to considering your wardrobe, make sure your internet connection is strong, the backdrop is pristine and relevant to your brand, and the camera angle is good — preferably straight on or angled down versus a view of your ceiling. Wireless ear buds need to be paired with your laptop and tested in advance. Lighting should be bright without casting shadows on your face. Ring lights have become the go-to video conferencing accessory. Eyeglass wearers beware of creating ring light reflections in your specs when you’re on camera.

Is your chef doing a live cooking segment? Gone are the days of in-person banter between anchors and guests. Instead of bringing the mis en place to the TV studio and having multiple cameras film the demo from every angle, you now need to have everything within arm’s reach of what is visible from your webcam. Interviews can be daunting as there often is a delay between the reporter’s question and the interviewee’s answer, so be prepared to lead the conversation.

In addition to making the interview interesting while you’re “playing to the camera,” we recommend going the extra mile of delivering food to the TV station so the on-air talent can taste the dish your chef is preparing during the segment. Send hi-resolution photos of your business: interiors, exteriors, food, drink and smiling staff that can be shown on-screen as a “tease” before the commercial break and during the interview. Don’t forget horizontal images are best for television. All of these elements make for a more dynamic segment that will engage viewers. Need more tips? Check out this blog.

Use digital media to inform, engage and inspire guest visits

Your digital brand presence should accurately reflect your business in an aesthetically-pleasing and engaging way. Make certain hours of operation are updated throughout your website and place key information at the top of your home page: phone number, reservation link, and hyperlinks to social media channels.

An e-blast campaign is an economical and efficient way to stay in touch with your guests. Promote seasonal offerings and signature services; highlight renovations and updates; and convey the welcoming guest experience you deliver daily. If you don’t already have an email capture in place, add it to your website, with the check presenter or upon checking in at your hotel.

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, it’s likely nearly all your customers are on social media. Use these digital platforms to keep your business top-of-mind. Create a monthly content calendar of social media posts that align with your business and communication priorities. This could include seasonal offerings, cross-marketing with non-competing businesses and associate spotlights, to name a few.

Social media posts with multiple photos, video, and photos featuring people having a great time tend to get the highest engagement. Consider what type of content would draw your attention when deciding what to post.

Do you have a tech-savvy staffer? Perhaps they would like to be a content-creator for your brand, taking photos and videos for your social channels. Images should be optimally sized for each platform. Amplify your content by posting stories which generally get high views. Review analytics and post to your social channels at the time of day or night when your reach is highest. Save time by using publishing tools to schedule content in advance.

Effectively using social media goes beyond simply posting content. You need to conduct active listening and monitor your social pages for messages, comments or inquiries. Engagement is critical — social media should be an online conversation, not a monologue. When someone posts on your page, like and respond to their comments. Most importantly, when faced with a negative comment or review about your business, you need to respond in a timely fashion. We also recommend taking the conversation offline away from the eyes of the public. Learn more about how social media can elevate your brand here.

Getting back to business.

We love to travel, dine out and socialize; so do our family, friends and neighbors. People are clamoring to get out to eat and vacation. Learn from our experiences and put a communications plan in place to engage your customers. With the right planning, creativity and flexibility, 2022 can be one of your best years ever.

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