STAMFORD, CT: Aloft Hotels has picked Atomic PR as AOR after its unconventional “RFTweet” process, which invited firms to pitch for its business via Twitter.
The unorthodox search process kicked off in November and asked “A-list #PRpros who do more than talk the talk” to participate in the review by using the hashtag #PitchAloft. Firms had four weeks to get involved.
By the end of the submission period, more than 240 agencies and freelancers expressed interest, said Stacy Trevino, director of global communications for Starwood's Specialty Select Brands. Aloft is a unit of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. She added that full-service agencies and advertising agencies with PR capabilities were among the participants.
Aloft narrowed the field to 15 agencies to delve deeper into their capabilities and case studies, said Trevino.
From there, the hotel brand focused on “chemistry” with the firms, inviting six finalists to more traditional in-person meetings, she explained. Two firms, one in Cincinnati and one in Orlando, FL, conducted meetings through Skype. Trevino declined to name the other finalists.
Atomic, which began working with Aloft last month, came out on top because of its creative presentation and the resources it brought to the meeting, said Trevino. The firm brought in an executive from its Los Angeles office to showcase its entertainment marketing offerings, as well as someone from its social media group in San Francisco. Trevino said her company's day-to-day contacts at the firm are based in New York.
While the relationship isn't classified as “global” AOR, Trevino said Atomic will work with all of the Aloft properties around the world to set strategies.
For the initial one-year contract, Atomic is tasked with supporting traditional, digital, and social media and increasing Aloft's brand lifestyle exposure. The hotel chain will also leverage Atomic's analytics offering, said Trevino. She declined to disclose budget information.
Rather than targeting a specific age demographic, Atomic will engage consumers from a lifestyle or “psychographic” stance, focusing on self-sufficient travelers who want a great design and social experience at an affordable price, explained Trevino.
“Our overall mission with all of our brands and all of our hotels is to put heads in beds,” she said. “With Aloft, since it's still such a new brand, we want to do the heads-in-beds challenge but also continue to perpetuate the awareness momentum, especially as we're going into new markets all over the world all the time.”
Trevino said the discovery phase of the RFTweet process benefitted the brand because it met many firms and familiarized itself with the different skill sets they offer.
She said the brand would be open to using another social media platform in a competitive review in the future. The company did not expect more than 200 firms to pitch for the business.
“The volume of agencies that participated from a time and resource standpoint was a little bit hard for us to manage,” she said.
Atomic's team on the account has seven staffers, said Libby Langsdorf, VP and MD at the agency. Atomic will work on raising brand awareness for Aloft, focusing on the hotel's creativity and innovation, she added.
“We loved the RFTweet process,” she said. “We didn't know much about Aloft prior to the RFTweet, and we saw it and thought it was so fun and creative that we started replying to it because the questions were becoming so much fun to brainstorm about.”
She added that the process helped Atomic figure out how to differentiate itself from competitors. It also shows the growth of the firm's consumer brand work, Langsdorf added.
Aloft has not had an AOR in more than a year, but it has worked with Meg Connolly Communications in the past.
In addition to Aloft, Starwood owns Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, St. Regis, Le Méridien, and Element by Westin.
This story was updated on March 15 with more information and quotes from Atomic PR.