As the Garden State, New Jersey is famous for bountiful harvests of tomatoes, blueberries and other produce but to anyone driving up and down the state’s highways, a strong argument could also be made that it seems New Jersey also grows hotels. Almost emerging from the side of highways overnight, the state is filled with hotels of varying sizes, styles, and price points across dozens of different brands.
With an August 2018 opening, R&J was brought on by White Lodging, an Indiana-based hotel management firm, to develop and execute an earned media campaign to raise awareness of an under-construction 350-room, dual-branded Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites in Teaneck, N.J. The goal of the media campaign was to create awareness of the project among the local business community and help generate leads for the hotel’s modern meeting space and guest rooms prior to and following the hotel’s opening. The hotel management team decided to forgo paid, shared or owned media for the launch, focusing on earned media and tasked R&J with the delivery of a robust media campaign.
Featuring floor to ceiling glass windows, a striking 15-story design, and dual branding, the Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites would stand out as the first of its kind in New Jersey. However, building a unique property is not enough in today’s media landscape to generate buzz and interest from target audiences. In a hospitality market as crowded as New Jersey, it can often be difficult for hotels to reach potential guests and establish an identity. However, R&J’s commercial real estate expertise and work with leading firms across New Jersey provides our team with an edge in developing media relations strategies that result in placements in this competitive media market.
As we do in every media relations project, R&J immediately conducted a discovery session focused around two main goals.
- Understanding and researching the dual-branded hotel’s key audiences
- Establishing key differentiators of the hotel and how those were valued by target audiences
Through consultation with White Lodging and the hotel’s development team, R&J was able to leverage client insights and our internal time-tested discovery session process to identify three core audiences; the hotel industry, the regional business community, and the surrounding community’s residents.
As such a unique and ambitious project, it was important to generate awareness among the hotel industry and highlight the development team’s expertise in bringing it to life. At 15 stories, the local community was also highly interested in the project which necessitated a local media component as well. Finally, as the hotel was developed with business hospitality needs in mind, it was important to speak to the local business community to help the hotel secure reservations and raise awareness in a crowded and competitive marketplace.
R&J sees well-crafted messaging as the backbone of any successful media relations campaign. With audiences identified, R&J immediately developed messaging around the hotel designed to speak to its key differentiators. Through developing unified and cohesive messaging, we ensure that the key differentiators we hope to establish in the marketplace are consistent across media placements and that each spokesperson can speak with authority on the project.
The audience segmentation provided the R&J team with a roadmap for a six-month media outreach campaign targeted at hotel and real estate trade publications, local and regional news outlets, and regional and statewide business publications.
Built around the goal of reaching each target audience, R&J’s media strategy focused on not just the grand opening of the hotel but the pre-opening and post-opening stages of the project. A longer campaign allowed our team to ensure the hotel received coverage over a lengthier period of time and in a wider range of outlets.
R&J immediately recognized that although the project had been covered previously in local papers, a reporter had not been on a tour of the hotel since it entered the final stages of construction. This represented the perfect opportunity to invite members of the local media to tour the space and there was no outlet that was better suited than The Record, Bergen County’s most-read newspaper. R&J was able to arrange a tour of the hotel with Megan Burrow, a reporter from The Record. Burrow was joined on the tour by Kim Gagnon, the General Manager of the hotel and Ryan Sanzari, COO of Alfred Sanzari Enterprises, the hotel’s developer. The tour of the hotel enabled the reporter to receive a first-hand look at the exciting project and craft a story on the project’s progress including the first look at completed guest rooms and suites.
In addition to pre-opening coverage from The Record and hyper-local sites such as TapInto and Patch, R&J targeted New Jersey-based business publications including ROI-NJ and Real Estate NJ for coverage of the grand opening. Additionally, R&J was able to secure another interview for their client, the Deputy Mayor of Teaneck, and the developer with The Record at the grand opening event. Following the opening, R&J coordinated interviews with the developer and management firm with NJBIZ, Lodging Magazine, and Bergen Magazine to speak about the project and its impact in the local market. Each of these opportunities helped R&J leverage the opening across a six month earned media campaign and effectively announce the opening of the region’s most exciting hospitality destination.
R&J’s proactive and multi-faceted media relations strategy provided the hotel with invaluable coverage in local, trade, and business publications ahead of, during and after the opening. Through targeting a variety of outlets across coverage areas, R&J was able to generate thousands of views across the three target audiences. The media strategy resulted in significant buzz within the local business community generating inquiries for both meeting space and available rooms and set a new standard in the local hospitality market.