December - my wish list for hotels

I'm very fortunate in that I get to travel quite a bit...and often stay in some amazing hotels.  However there are a couple of niggly things about the majority of places I stay that I'd like to respectfully suggest to all those hoteliers that would make their product even better!

l) Luggage racks.  People who travel often have suitcases with them.  Really! Very few hotels seem to offer luggage racks, meaning you have to shove your suitcase into the closet or (if it will fit) under the bed, and if you are staying just one night and don't want to unpack, on the desk or on the floor!  Please bring back the luggage rack!

2) Nightlights in bathrooms. I don't think I've ever seen one of these. So if you need to make a middle-of-the-night visit, you grope around in the dark, stubbing toes, as you feel your way to the bathroom. You turn on the light, instantly flooding the bedroom as well as the bathroom with light.  Then you get to grope your way back to bed in the dark.  No fun quotient here. An inexpensive night light in the loo would solve this.

3) Reading lamps you can read by! Too many are more elegant than serviceable. Awful trying to read by a 20 watt bulb that's at elbow height.

4) Make-up mirrors in bathrooms.  Yes, gentlemen, this is a big hit with lady boomer guests.

5) Desktop plugs.  Hooray!  We can now charge our stuff without having to crawl around on all fours!

6) Coffeemate is so, so 1960s. How about some long-life milk to go with the thoughtfully-supplied coffee?

7) Curtains that close. I'm amazed at how often even elaborate arrangements of drapes fail to close properly and truly block out the light. (Some of my savvy travel friends travel with a clothespeg for just that purpose.) That shaft of light somehow seems to be directed right on your face!

That's it.  My lucky seven.  Happy travels to all out there - including hoteliers!


November - Quotes that are real

I get a lot of press releases coming across my desk and am always amazed at the ones with quotes such as:

"We are looking forward to maximizing the synergies relevant to the stakeholders and empowering our thought leader teams to extrapolate the conclusivity."


OK, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but all too often releases feature, about 2 paragraphs down, a quote from some senior exec and you know, you just know, that whoever wrote that release never spoke to the exec. (Or if s/he really speaks like that, the PR needs to help them communicate in humanese.)

When crafting a release, try to speak to the exec to get a feel for how he or she really feels about the news you are conveying.  Hopefully they're pretty jazzed about it - and the quote should reflect that.

"We're really pleased that, after a lot of research, our team has pulled this off," says John Smith. "And our employees have told us they're so looking forward to working with the new customer feedback system."

Hm...makes him - and the company - sound also human!



October - The TV Interview

There is probably nothing more nerve-wracking than the TV interview.  You aren't the only person who feels that way...but luckily there are some great ideas to help you not only survive but do it well...and enjoy it!

l) Chances are the producer will be your conduit (though in a smaller station it may be the on-air person).  They will need your help in making the segment interesting and informative.  So don't be shy about suggesting talking points.  Your talking point "Tourism in Ontario is up 16%" may result in the following exchange:  Host: So tourism is up in Ontario this year?  You:  Yes - by 16%!

2) Don't forget visuals. The producer will really appreciate it if you can source visuals, preferably broadcast quality film.

3) Find out how long the segment will be.  Two minutes and eight minutes are worlds apart in TV!

4) Get to the station early. Better to sit in your car in the parking lot for 20 minutes than be rushing and stressed.

5) Unless it's a very small station, there will be a makeup person. (Guys, you too.) This also means they will have make-up removal cloths. TV makeup is very scary in daylight.

6) You will be miked (don't wear a turtleneck!) and walked to the set.  This will likely be during a commercial break and there may be a  minute for chit chat, or the on-air person may be checking his/her notes. Don't be offended if you are ignored.

7) As SOON as host starts speaking to camera, start smiling at him/her.  The shot may be of the two of you and you looking miserable and anxious is not a good look.

8) If you must have notes to refer to - which is not recommend unless it's a toll free number or complex website -  print them out 1" high so  you can see it at a glance.

9) When it's over, you'll be walked from the set and de-miked.  Remove your makeup and interesting as it all has been, they don't need you hanging around.  But nice to send a note thanking the producer for the opportunity.

10) Above all, remember it's just a conversation. Do your best to have fun.  Chances are it's not Sixty Minutes.   And if it is, give me a call.


September: Radio interviews

The call has come:  someone wants to interview you on the radio! If this is your first time - or you've been interviewed before but weren't thrilled with the results - these tips might help.

Find out the purpose of the interview (let's say it's about growing numbers of visitors to your attraction). Ask what sort of questions may come up, and - a really useful tip - how long the interview will be.  A 30 second clip is quite different from a 4 minute marathon! 

If you're not familiar with the show, try to listen to an episode or two so you can guage the tone of the program - hard news or funny/wacky commentary? 

If it's not the interviewer who has contacted you, find out the name of the person who will be chatting with you.  

If possible do go into the studio:  eye contact can be a huge help.  If not possible, try to do the interview in a private spot with a closed door.  You don't want to hear the photocopier outside your cubicle start on a massive print job just as you go live on air!

During the interview:

- speak s l o w l y. Nerves tend to make us rush-our-words.

- use the name of the interviewer a couple of times (not so often you sound sycophantic but enough to make you sound friendly and human)

- try to steer clear of too many numbers. Instead of "Visitor numbers are up 56.38 per cent since 2009" try "Visitor number are up by more than half in the past four years".

- call websites just by their website name i.e., not the rather clunkier sounding

When the interview is over, the interviewer will simply hang up - don't be shocked that there isn't a little friendly chitchat between the two of you at the end of the segment.  That's just how it is...on radio!



August - make the media love you

You don't have to be the biggest (or smallest), newest (or oldest), most high-tech (or quaintest).  When dealing with the travel media, it's often about the characters.

So envy the tourism folks in Clarington, a region about an hour's drive east of Toronto along Lake Ontario. Not only do they have scenic beauty and charming towns and villages, they have attractions which are as picturesque as they are quirky.  As local tourism booster Jim Boate put it, "We like to think we're a best kept secret - but we're not trying to keep the secret."

Take Newcastle's A Gift of Art, a 150 year old home which now houses art of all types by local artists, including a 19 year old glass blower.  They host "Knitting in the Garden" afternoons each Sunday.  How sweet is that? The antique-hunters' village Orono boasts Silly Sisters Antiques (guess where I'm headed this weekend, drawn by just the name).  And each fall Bowmanville celebrates all things apple with their Applefest.

But the local attraction which really caught my eye as a tourism promoter is the Archibald Estate Winery. A fruit winery is cool. One with an orchard into which is sprinkled a par 3 executive golf course is even cooler. But it's coolest is when the owner - in this case the personable Fred Archibald - makes such heartfelt comments as: "I have touched every bottle of wine that comes out of our winery," and "The most valuable experience is to see a real farm, not a pretend farm with a 'petting zoo' with a couple of goats borrowed from a neighbour."

That makes PR folks like me beam with pleasure.  It's real, it's not rehearsed, and reflects someone's passion for what they do.  What a great tourism ambassador!

p.s. And it helps when there's signage like "Golf proshop in the winery".  Now that's a keeper!