Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Your Marriott Awaits

You'd have to be in a coma to miss all the coverage about the opening of the new J.W. Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. TV 13 has three headlines in my RSS aggregator starting with "J.W. Marriott......" TV 8 is live there this morning. Other broadcast news is all over it. Print coverage has also been extensive, including a special supplement in last weekend's Press and various treatments by our region's three business journals.

So, publicity is great, right? Well, some of my students and other area pros have wondered if it isn't overkill. It's a good question, and one that needs to be resolved not by basking in a clip count but by reconsidering the objective of publicity for a hotel in media that reaches people who have houses in the area and probably don't need a room. Well, it's an overlap of marketing and public relations.

On the marketing side, this is a form of relationship and word-of-mouth marketing. We may never want to drive 10 to 45-minutes to stay downtown (although some might; the Grand Plaza had packages for local folks for weekend getaways that involved museum and concert tix etc). But, more importantly, we are the all important referrals that hotels seek. I myself have mentioned the hotel already to friends from DC just last week. And when GVSU has had guest speakers in the past, it occured that there have not been many lodging options. So the publicity will help attract customers through referrals.

Secondly, this is an example of community relations. In some of the publicity and advertising about the opening, a host of local contractors who worked on the building are mentioned and thanked. Hotel owners made efforts to hire local companies--a good community relations move. Owners no doubt also want to instill a sense of community pride in the new hotel, which will also yield dividends in the form of referrals mentioned above. Also, there are government officials, planning commissions, hotel tax structures and other issues to keep in mind. All of this publicity and public celebnration of the building creates an environment in which local relationships can be fostered and enjoyed in the future.

Meanwhile, why is the media covering it? It's big and easy to photograph. It's downtown and easy for them to find. It's owned by Alticor. Everyone else in the wolf pack is doing it.

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