Pandemics are not welcome for obvious reasons, but they’re especially unwelcome when they hit just a couple of months before a new hotel opening. The Hammetts Hotel in Newport, RI faced just such a challenge, and we were forced to scrap our original PR plans to create a big media splash for its planned May 2020 opening when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down businesses.
As we awaited verdicts on all the unknowns in play – when will businesses be allowed to open?… will the hotel finish construction in time to catch the summer season?… will people travel once they’re allowed to? – we regrouped to develop a new PR strategy that would maximize attention within the unpredictable, pandemic-dominated climate. What do you do when your car swerves beyond your control? You steer into the skid.
With its design, amenities, and location, Hammetts already had a cool story to share. But by choosing to open its doors for debut amidst a pandemic, it offered a relevant, newsworthy hook for journalists hungry to share positive travel industry developments. We leveraged that angle strategically, transforming Hammetts into a bright spot of news among the industry’s doom and gloom.
With a seriously short runway between “it’s a go” and “doors open,” our preliminary pitching wave focused on short lead media outlets and regional coverage. A key part of hotel launch PR is securing visits from leading journalists to experience the property… and this vital strategy was rendered significantly more complex by travel and quarantine restrictions. Even if we secured journalists willing to travel during this time, state travel restrictions had to be monitored daily – and at some points, hourly – to switch gears and rearrange plans as necessary.
Hammetts opened its doors on June 26 and media coverage was strong right out of the gate, including this multipage feature in The Boston Globe (Hammetts’ top market) entitled This Hotel Has Only Ever Known a Pandemic. Additional editorial coverage included a feature segment on WPRI-TV (CBS), Forbes, New England Today, Business Insider, MSN.com, and a host of regional RI outlets. Looking ahead, stories are expected to appear in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Martha Stewart Weddings, AAA Magazine, BuzzFeed, Providence Business News, and many more. Stay tuned and we’ll provide links to those articles as they appear!