Embassy Suites searches for travel mishaps to bond with customers

Last year Embassy Suites Hotels asked Emanate, its consumer-facing agency, to help reach a newly identified segment of business traveler - the "young socializer."

Campaign: My First Business Trip
Client: Embassy Suites Hotels (McLean, VA)
PR agency: Emanate (New York, NY)
Duration: March - September 2009
Budget: $155,000

Last year Embassy Suites Hotels asked Emanate, its consumer-facing agency, to help reach a newly identified segment of business traveler – the “young socializer.”

“These are 20-somethings… just taking their first business trips,” says Maggie Giddens, Embassy's director of brand PR. “They're freshly minted. We want to grow our business with them and ensure they know we've got what they need and want.”

Embassy Suites' existing agency partner, CS2 Advertising, would develop a “My First Business Trip” page on the company's existing resource BusinessBalance.com. The microsite housed tips gleaned from experienced travelers and an online “My Business Travel Blunder” contest, which served as a central element.

“Business travel is the great equalizer,” says MaryBeth Clayton, director of consumer marketing at Emanate. “Experienced or inexperienced —your plane can still be late or you can still drop soup on your lap. Having seasoned business travelers lend their voice and advice would be a great way to reach newbies.”

The team engaged in traditional media relations and social media outreach to drive awareness. In addition, the company partnered with Stuart Schultz, CEO and founder of Gradspot.com, to help spread the word.

The team conducted a national survey asking veteran business travelers for their experiences and advice. Findings informed downloadable resources, including checklists and tips, and were pitched to travel, career, and small business outlets, and bloggers.

Running from August 11 through September 8, 2009, the contest called for written submissions detailing business travel blunders. The grand prize was a five-night stay at Embassy Suites Waikiki in Hawaii.

The week prior to the contest launch, select media received “business trip survival kit” mailers (including things like pain reliever, stain remover, and the tips). Contest blunder stories later served as hooks. Schultz did an SMT/RMT tour of 31 stations and wrote five articles for the site.

“We also used our Facebook and Twitter pages to tease… and post updates as contest entries came in because they were hilarious,” Giddens says.

The contest drew more than 500 submissions. Giddens says BusinessBalance.com traffic increased 13% on average from August to September 2009. More than 110 million media impressions were garnered from outlets including USA Today, CNBC, and BusinessWeek.com.

The hotel company's Facebook reached nearly 3,700 fans and more than 1,600 Twitter followers.

“We feel confident we raised awareness among this group,” and the campaign “hit it out of the park” on ROI, says Giddens.

Giddens says an upcoming business traveler survey will help inform this year's plans, and the team will continue working together.

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