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#FC16 | Travelzoo's Louise Hodges On Audience Engagements

Blog post   •   Jun 01, 2016 12:13 BST

Travelzoo's European Head of Comms, Louise Hodges talks to us ahead of FutureComms16. Here's what she had to say about her talk and the state of PR and comms...

Why have you chosen to talk about audiences?

I am talking about ‘building powerful and emotional dialogues with your audience’ because I believe too many brands put their company agenda first and forget that the media are not here to be a mouthpiece for product launches or company news. The challenge of getting ‘coverage’ is half the battle – the second half is being memorable and standing for something. I am not simply talking about standing for an ideology i.e. gender equality – but about being part of the conversation your customer or potential customer is having with their friends and family. It’s about getting your brand’s spokespeople to be part of the most important news stories of the moment – talking about the things people really care about not forcing a corporate message on people who are largely indifferent. To do that brands have to think and act like a journalist and create truly useful, engaging and relevant commentary and content that will be read/ viewed and shared.

What are the key themes of your talk?

1)David and Goliath - small brands can have huge voices if they are savvy and ‘own’ a topic or area of discussion based on their expertise and professionalism when it comes to working with media.

2)Circles of proximity - people are the most responsive to news and content that has a direct relevance to their lives and that relevance is based on their proximity to the story. Brands should remember this when creating ‘content’ that is generic and has no national or local flavour or significance.

Whose talks are you most looking forward to & why?

Levi Roots – he’s such a character and I imagine he has a great story to tell.

What are your predictions for the future of comms?

I think that a lot of the hype around social media and bloggers will die down and agencies will stop treating this aspect of comms like a separate entity, worlds apart from traditional reputation and brand management. At the end of the day social media and bloggers simply present another channel for brands to use in order to reach their audience – what’s truly important is having something interesting to say on those channels. If your story is boring it will be boring whether you post it on Instagram or try and sell it in to the Telegraph. I think brands will start to recognise this and put more emphasis on finding great stories and storytellers rather than try to chase the ‘youngsters’ via Snapchat or the latest ‘trend.’

What does your particular industry need to do in order to keep up with the evolution of PR & comms?

With the exception of a few really smart brands, the travel industry is generally not that creative when it comes to PR and comms. There are an awful lot of rather uninspired press releases about ‘cheese week’ or other supposed national days or weeks that come into my inbox and make me cringe. It can also be rather clichéd and generic with typical beach photos and information about new hotel openings. With so much happening in the world right now, travel is one of the true barometers of consumer confidence and travel brands have never been better placed to be the guardians and spokespeople for some of the most important global news stories. There is a tendency for travel brands to use the ‘if I ignore it the problem will go away’ approach to addressing real concerns consumers have about travelling right now. As a result the industry does not have a particularly connected and powerful voice when media seek advice or information. This needs to change – the difficult conversations need to happen in order to reassure people – holidays are such a huge financial and emotional investment and as an industry we could up our game somewhat.

Louise Hodges will be speaking at FutureComms16 on 15th June at BAFTA, London. 

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