Arun Sudhaman 11 Jun 2011 // 11:00PM GMT
ATLANTA--InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has selected WPP digital firm Zaaz to help it oversee its group-wide social media strategy, following a lengthy review that saw the hotel giant consider proposals from several different types of agencies.
The company has tasked Seattle-based Zaaz with a strategic brief to help it take a more structured social media approach across its seven hotel brands, which include InterContinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and Indigo. The global assignment also calls for specific insight into IHG’s key geographic markets.
The review was led by IHG global brand communications director Mollie Tregembo and London-based global brand communications and social media director Charles Yap, who took on oversight for the group’s digital PR efforts earlier this year.
While Yap considered approaches from advertising and PR firms, his decision to opt for a digital agency - following a recommendation from IHG media agency MindShare - was not solely rooted in a preference for technological skills.
“Zaaz impressed us with their understanding of our views on the need for holistic communication in social media,” said Yap. “One of the reasons I chose them is I am not a tech person; they have the right understanding of the tech infrastructure and of the communications needs.”
The IHG review illustrates the diverse approaches that are being taken by large corporates to the new challenges posed by social media. As a multi-brand company, IHG’s specific needs include mapping out a long-term strategy for each of its seven hotel chains, bearing in mind that each - in the words of Yap - needs to “sound different.”
“We want to make sure our social media approach is respectful of that, and not many agencies were able to demonstrate their understanding of that,” added Yap. “ Zaaz got it from the beginning. A lot of it is storytelling, making sure the story is real and authentic and, when there are campaign opportunities, making sure the campaign has the best platform.”
The appointment of Zaaz comes as IHG also pilots a new social media monitoring system, which has been delineated into two areas: brand strategy, and listening/community management. Yap noted that one priority would be to “create clear briefs and tone of voice documents for our community management team, per brand.”
Zaaz’s global capabilities, whether its own or in tandem with sister Wunderman/WPP agencies, also proved instrumental in securing the brief. “The strategy is global so that includes planning for the specific needs of markets like China and Germany,” said Yap. “Most companies tend to think global is English-speaking and plug in the other markets much later, but Zaaz were able to come back with a solution for this.”
Zaaz is also charged with auditing IHG’s existing social media efforts which, in common with many companies, are often more opportunistic than planned. “The challenge is that everybody wants to do their own thing,” explained Yap, pointing to the various Facebook pages that already exist. “We need a strategy to decide the next step; do we keep separate pages or collect them into one master brand page?”
Founded in 1998, Zaaz was acquired by WPP below-the-line agency Wunderman in 2006.