Handling public relations in SA hospitality industry

Saadiyah Hendricks (Supplied)
Saadiyah Hendricks (Supplied)

Cape Town - There is a steady increase in companies within the hospitality industry in South Africa that are placing public relations (PR) as one of their key priorities, according to Saadiyah Hendricks, The Rezidor Hotel Group's area communication and PR manager for Africa and the Indian Ocean.      

Being under 30 years old and heading up PR for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group across Africa and Indian Ocean is a huge responsibility and achievement.

As the PR Manager, her principal role is to conceptualise a PR strategy for Africa and Indian Ocean, which includes both internal and external communication and various PR tactics, targeting various stakeholders and ensure the seamless execution thereof.

Another imperative responsibility is to ensure the group's hotels, which currently stand at 42 in operation across Africa and Indian Ocean, are promoting themselves and their unique offerings in the best way possible. ensuring brands and hotels are always top of mind.

Hospitality PR trends she has noticed are:

Influencer collaborations

"As a company, we’ve globally recognised the impact influencers have and the credibility they hold with the public. The truth is, these days we trust influencers as much as our friends. There is also a constantly flourishing pool of influencers in every sphere, specialising in various aspects, from travel and food, to lifestyle and social responsibility," explains Hendricks.

"For me, it is critical in PR to build relationships with influencers and media as dealings with them should never be cold and transactional, it should be natural and collaborative."
Personalisation is the route to success

To be successful in PR, you have to be detail-oriented, in her view.

"In hospitality PR, weaving this into every PR is critical, from the personalisation of emails and event invitations to the welcome pack in the room when media or influencers are reviewing your hotel. Again personalisation, helps you to build relationships and show that you’ve done your research and care, which is what hospitality is," says Hendricks.
Content amplification

"Whether it’s an editorial feature, a mention in an influencer or top tier media title’s social media post or a blog post, we are constantly trying to amplify this content across all relevant mediums and channels from the company website to sharing on LinkedIn and more. The reason for this is because of the effort it takes to create or the credibility great content holds. It would be a shame to not try and amplify great content as much as possible."

With being based at the tip of Africa and having to oversee the PR produced by the hotel teams located across the African continent, it can be quite challenging due to distances and unreliable telephone and mobile networks in certain parts of Africa.

To overcome this, she tries to schedule regular Skype calls with the hotel teams and building a relationship with each of them in order for them to always feel comfortable enough to seek PR advice from and share their success with her.

Another challenge is trying to maintain the quality of communication from each of the hotels, but by constantly sharing best practices and our various guidelines, this definitely assists the challenge.

"I unfortunately do not speak French, which is a first language for so many countries within Africa, this language barrier is definitely a challenge. For now I am lucky enough to have fluent French and English speaking colleagues within my office and just a Skype message away to assist, but learning to speak this beautiful language is definitely a high priority for me," she adds.

To pursue a career in PR, experience is key, she emphasises. The majority of what you learn will be on the job as PR is definitely more practical than theoretical.

"I would definitely recommend becoming a book worm as reading is key to becoming a great writer and writing is a critical component of PR. Keep abreast of current affairs and successful PR campaigns as you’ll need to delve into various industries and promote it in creative ways. Most of all be confident, patient and always remain humble," she concludes.

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