This is a guest post by Frank Marr, co-founder of AM+A Marketing & Media Relations.
This autumn AM+A Marketing and Media Relations conducted a survey targeting decision makers in the transport and tourism sector to learn more about their marketing and PR activities. A total of 45 senior decision makers responded – including national and regional tourist boards, managing directors of transport groups, senior communication leaders and business owners.
Our six-question survey focused on marketing in the wake of COVID-19 and aimed to uncover insights into the following:
– Shortfalls and areas for improvement within existing PR and marketing strategies
– Frequent external purchases in relation to marketing and PR
– The importance of marketing and PR during the pandemic
– Key campaign starting periods and areas for investment
Has COVID-19 changed planning dates? How are companies preparing?
Organisations are reimagining strategies in light of the ‘new normal’. The first quarter of 2021 will be an important moment for organisations to decide how to invest and forecast what their sense of purpose for commercial survival will be.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on both short term (monthly) and long term (the next 12 months) marketing/communication strategies.
Key months for campaign planning
In our survey 57% of respondents claimed the biggest period for planning was January to April 2020. After a sluggish winter of trading for many sectors, organisations will be looking to turn 2021 into a sustainable and profitable year. Early investment in campaigns to attract customers will be essential.
The second highest period for PR and marketing campaign planning was between August and October with 28% of respondents considering late summer a good planning period.
Areas for improvement – technology, research, data and content output
In terms of key areas for improvement, our survey indicated a need to combine data findings gained from market research with SEO and online content. The results are a clear indicator of the need to maintain a healthy competitive position online whilst boosting traffic and online engagement.
Our polls suggested the most important area for internal improvement was SEO, followed closely by market research and content with clear calls-to-action. When it comes to marketing spend, Facebook was one of the biggest investment areas for respondents, with over 50% of people investing heavily in the platform.
Summary – the future of tourism marketing
The need for brands to grab attention while maintaining brand awareness and familiarity has never been so important. The pandemic has altered the way humans move and behave – gaining attention from publicity and traction from online activity is increasingly challenging. This is where owned new media such as podcasts and online magazine can help.
Building a social purpose and appealing to consumer desires with beneficial ideas and content is key. It’s important to build your own online following and engage them with positive, feel good messaging.
Researching and understanding how to improve society and the world through your organisational behaviour is a core component of post-COVID marketing. Implementing technology for online commercial activity is also important. Creativity remains key, as does the need to generate publicity that can benefit SEO backlinks alongside quality online marketing content.
The Survey Results and Tips
The optimal time to start new campaigns, shortcomings within PR and marketing, and which three areas of PR and marketing our respondents would choose to invest in.
1. What months do you typically spend the most on marketing and PR?
When it comes to knowing the right time to start a new campaign, it is important to monitor when countries will be receiving a COVID vaccine to help ease the risk in investing in marketing activity.
A second factor is the understanding of movement within a country or region, as well as how long this will likely last. For example, the UK has established a tiered regional system which will likely be in place until March 2021. Our survey results clearly indicated that campaign planning and asset building typically begins between January and April.
Tips from our findings:
– Start planning now: Start campaign preparation now to ensure your organisation is on track for recovery by spring/summer 2021
– Find a new sense of purpose: Reposition your organisation and find a renewed sense of purpose. Establish new goals for how you can help society and the environment. If the world is able to start looking beyond COVID in summer 2021, new methods to meet climate change targets and social agendas will be key.
2. Where do you feel you fall short when it comes to marketing & PR?
Responses to our survey indicated that many decision makers felt that it was primarily the SEO and market research aspects of their PR and marketing strategies that fell short. Increased market research allows decision makers to fine tune their SEO and increase quality traffic to their websites.
It is also notable that many responses showed an interest in furthering their podcast and new media offerings, which is unsurprising as now 12% of the UK population listen to podcasts weekly.
Tips from our findings:
– Learn more about your customer: Increase market research to learn more about what your customer needs. This will help dictate content messages and your marketing narrative. The Boston Consulting Group recently stated the most successful organisations during the pandemic have been those who have been customer focused.
– Knowledge is power: Use this increased knowledge to update your campaigns and website SEO in line with what customers are looking for. Plan campaigns that can include new media such as podcasts.
3. If you were to invest in three areas of your marketing & PR what would it be?
Our survey found that decision makers are most likely to invest in social media, website improvement and SEO.
In the current technological climate, social media is one of the primary ways brands build presence and communicate key messaging effectively. Furthermore, social media platforms breakdown the barriers between provider and consumer. This allows for a more nuanced and immediate understanding of which campaigns are effective.
Tips from our findings:
– Use social media for purpose-led content: brands need to use social media to cut through online noise. Content now needs to focus on how it maintains brand awareness and attention.
– Make web improvements: Integrate your website into your marketing and PR plans – ensure your website has relevant data collecting feeds. Data from cookies and Google analytics can feed into marketing and content campaigns.
– Quality content generates traffic: The better the quality of content on your website, the more likely you’ll increase online bounce rates and session duration. Share ideas and information that will directly benefit your audiences.
Read more from the results of the survey here.