It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Tour
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Tour

When Schenkein first began working with Globus and Cosmos (G&C), the world’s leading escorted travel company, in 1998, we were charged with overcoming negative perceptions of escorted travel – senior citizens packed in a motorcoach taking in the sights of

Paul Holmes

When Schenkein first began working with Globus and Cosmos (G&C), the world’s leading escorted travel company, in 1998, we were charged with overcoming negative perceptions of escorted travel – senior citizens packed in a motorcoach taking in the sights of Europe.  Schenkein launched a successful national public relations campaign that raised awareness of G&C and repositioned the perception of escorted travel among consumer media. 

After 70 years in business, G&C was well-known and an established leader within the travel agent community.  However, the company had little brand awareness among consumers, who were becoming an increasingly important target since the company was getting ready to launch a new direct-to-consumer sales strategy. Schenkein was charged with increasing recognition among consumers in order to encourage them to book directly with G&C.

Challenge/Opportunity

In 2000/2001, G&C faced a number of new public awareness challenges, including:  low brand awareness among consumers; heightened competition from other tour operators changing their image; increasing their marketing to attract the Baby Boomers; and little differentiation of G&C among some travel agents.  Schenkein needed to build and differentiate the G&C brand at a time when the company faced greater competition from other tour operators that were increasing their marketing to attract Globus’ top target market, the Baby Boomers. 

Our goal for the 2000/2001 campaign, was to build upon the previous year’s success, by developing and implementing a comprehensive public relations program designed to strengthen, promote and differentiate the G&C brand.

Research

Although our earlier efforts had greatly improved the public’s overall understanding of escorted travel, research showed that most consumers didn’t know any of the top escorted travel companies by name.  These findings prompted a major goal of the 2000/2001 PR campaign, which was to effectively differentiate the company from its competitors and demonstrate G&C’s leadership position. 

Prior to devising our media relations strategy, we conducted a thorough analysis of past generated media coverage to ascertain appealing themes, as well as identify key targets for media lists.  We also reviewed research from G&C’s “travel think tank,” which was comprised of an eclectic group of travel experts from six different countries, whose findings were used to develop dozens of new concepts for the 2000/2001 tours.  To further enhance our creative efforts, we conducted a CARAVAN survey of more than 1,000 Americans regarding their vacation habits, providing fodder for an arsenal of story ideas.

Strategy

Based on our research findings, Schenkein needed to develop and implement a strategic public relations plan that supported the new image of escorted travel while simultaneously differentiating the G&C brand from competitors.  We developed a plan that primarily focused on national media relations – emphasizing Globus’ LeisureStyle Vacations, which offer more freedom, adventure and cultural immersion – and its new boutique brochures, to differentiate the G&C brand from other tour operators as well as drive consumer interest.  Additionally, we focused on securing placements in high-visibility, high-circulation consumer publications in order to increase general awareness.

Schenkein established the following measurable objectives for 8/1/00 – 7/31/01:
Create awareness of G&C as evidenced by achieving 80 million gross media impressions.
Generate a minimum of 230 placements.
Secure 150 consumer placements, with 20 of them being G&C feature articles.
Generate at least 50 percent of total coverage in top 200 media outlets and 10 percent of coverage in the top 20 targeted media.
Include at least one key message in 60 percent on all placements. 
Secure or confirm two key reporters to attend a familiarization (FAM) press trip with G&C.
Use publicity to generate 1,500 calls to our dedicated public relations toll-free phone number.
Elevate the image of President and CEO Paolo Mantegazza among key audiences by securing at least two feature articles that focused on his new leadership role.

Execution

A comprehensive national media relations plan was implemented to accomplish our objectives:

Media Training and Key Message Refinement – We held a “refresher” media training session for G&C key executives to review the basics of working with the media as well as refine key messages, including statistics for 2000/2001.

Media Targets – To ensure we were placing G&C’s name before high-visibility media and target audiences, we researched and updated their Top 200 and Top 20 media lists to include key G&C markets, as well as high-circulation, high-profile consumer media.

Media Kits –We created a customized media kit for consumer media with several pieces to differentiate the company from other operators while also debunking the myths of escorted travel. 

Creative Pitching – In addition to targeting travel editors with new products offered by G&C in 2000/2001, we also developed an arsenal of creative story angles about the company and industry, as well as angles that corresponded to current events or national trends.  From the information revealed by the CARAVAN survey, we highlighted interesting statistics (percentage of respondents who unpack their suitcases while on vacation, or who bring more than four bags on a one-week trip) in our pitching efforts.  We secured widespread pick-up including USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, The Los Angeles Times, Travel Holiday, Travel + Leisure and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Press Trips – To secure in-depth features of G&C in our top media outlets, we targeted select reporters to take a FAM press trip on one of the company’s new packages, emphasizing the new LeisureStyle Vacations.  We distributed individualized letters to key media inviting them to experience first-hand the “new” escorted travel.  We confirmed and booked three reporters with top publications, including Boston Herald, Buffalo News and Valley News Group, on a G&C trip.

Toll-Free Public Relations Number – We established a dedicated toll-free public relations number that we encouraged reporters to include for consumers seeking more information or brochures. Calls to the PR line exceeded 835 and outweighed calls received by the company’s advertising line.

Monthly Releases – By monitoring the calls coming into the toll-free number established exclusively for PR, we recognized that it was not just lengthy feature articles, but also smaller round-up stories in national dailies, which prompted consumer calls.  As a result, we disseminated monthly news releases highlighting a Globus or Cosmos specific tour or destination.  We generated consistent pick-up from numerous daily newspapers including The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Newsday, Denver Post, San Diego Union-Tribune and Newsday, as well as the CNNfn Web site.

New Leadership - We conducted proactive media relations to position G&C president, Paolo Mantegazza, as both an industry leader and as a resource to reporters.  Paolo was featured in several prestigious lists such as Travel Agent’s “Travel’s Top 100 Rising Stars” and “Winners Circle” and The Denver Business Journal’s “Who’s Who in Travel & Tourism.”

Results

The results Schenkein achieved overwhelmingly surpassed our original objectives in several established areas:
Our media impressions totaled 160 million, exceeding our goal by more than 100 percent.
We generated a total of 398 placements, 292 of which were consumer placements and 96 of which were consumer feature articles on G&C.
Placements in Top 200 media exceeded our annual goal by 35 percent with 268 placements.
Moreover, 75 placements ran in the Top 20, exceeding our goal by 275 percent and reaffirming our emphasis on generating in-depth coverage via high profile, high visibility media. 
We surpassed our original goal of booking two press trips by securing three press trips with reporters from top-quality publications.  We also received glowing feedback from reporters, indicating that they will “recommend the trip (LeisureStyle Vacation) to friends” and that Schenkein “prepared me for everything...the trip was great!”
Generated placements with one or more key messages exceeded our goal, totaling 245.
PR line calls outweighed the calls received by G&C’s advertising line and numbered 835.
We secured four inclusions of CEO Paolo Mantegazza on prestigious industry leader lists of several top trade and consumer publications.

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