ITL #191 Emotional intelligence: a new way to navigate communications6 years, 5 months ago
Brands in the travel and hospitality sector can prosper by identifying the right ‘influencers’ to convey stories that are appealing and relevant. By Renu Snehi.
Emotional intelligence: that most underrated and undervalued professional skill. Often it is expressed as empathy and therefore sometimes wrongly perceived as a weakness, as a trait that makes you vulnerable. In reality, emotional intelligence enables communicators to navigate different audience communities (and their varied needs) in a way that’s sensitive and relevant.
There are many things that as communicators we have to be able to do, but perhaps the most important of those is to empathise. We must understand ourselves, our teams, our clients, and vitally, our audiences. We do this by being emotionally intuitive, by recognising what makes other people tick, and creating a bond between us by telling them a story. So simple in theory, a huge challenge in practice.
Social media’s reach means communicators need to be more emotionally connected to their audiences. People are increasingly driven by intrinsic, experiential desires. We want to see, explore and learn, rather than spend, pose and own. This is driven by many factors. But I believe that this culture is largely being driven by younger audiences, the Millennials who, in the face of economic, educational and societal uncertainty are less concerned about perceived ‘unattainables’, like buying a house and owning a nice car.
So they’re focusing on enjoying themselves. And they’re fulfilling their emotional desires in other ways, by travelling, experiencing and creating their own stories. This approach has begun transcending age groups, geographical locations and demographics and is being embraced by people from all walks of life.
Lifestyle and hospitality sector
I have spent my whole career in the lifestyle and hospitality sector. The cultural shift towards this experience-led mindset is hyper-relevant to our work in communications. We must ensure people know that we understand this.
What we do in hospitality is offer an experience; or rather, a range of experiences. From the moment a guest enters one of our hotels they are experiencing something. It may be the architecture and design, the staff, the peace of your room. Or the hotel may simply be a facilitator for the experience you’ll have in whichever destination you have chosen.
Whatever it is, our teams are there to help create the experience our guests want. And my job is to make sure that our guests know this, by creating stories that will resonate.
So how do we aim to connect with our guests on an emotional level? One of the most effective ways is to connect with those who influence our guests and work with them to tell our stories. The so-called ‘Influencers’.
We must continuously seek to understand our audiences, understand what they like, and where they find what they like. Increasingly, people are turning away from traditional media, which is often perceived to have a vested interest at heart, and they are moving towards ‘social influencers’, because they encapsulate a lifestyle ethos that many aspire to.
And they don’t appear to be doing it for any reason aside from pure passion – the sheer love of doing it. In the eyes of their audiences, this makes them an authentic and credible authority.
Credibility and originality
It’s this credibility and originality that makes ‘influencers’ important to the hospitality business; people will book with our hotel if they know that they will receive an exceptional experience. We know that our guests will get what they want, but they may not be so sure.
Our ‘influencers’ help us do our job. They amplify our messages and bring to life our service and our stories directly to our audience, in the space they occupy. It’s natural, unobtrusive and impactful. This is because the ‘influencers’ are trusted, and because they are relevant.
Relevance is a key word. We don’t choose an ‘influencer’ because they have great reach, we have a more tailored set of criteria: what experience does this ‘influencer’ want? Which of our hotel brands is the best fit for this ‘influencer’? How can we ensure this ‘influencer’ gets what they want? Does this ‘influencer’s’ following comprise the audience we want to reach? How engaged are their followers?
We try to find a perfect collaborative fit; as that’s what working with an ‘influencer’ is: a collaboration. We’d rather have a great ‘influencer’ on board who has 1,000 engaged readers, 50 of whom might go on to come and stay with us, than a big star with 1 million followers who are never likely to book a room, for whatever reason.
We exercise our emotional intelligence by creating an experience for each ‘influencer’ who visits our hotel that will tell our story. This story might be about the service by our brilliant staff, the facilities at our branch, or the foundation for the guest to create their own story that our hotel provides.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve included quotation marks every time that I’ve used the word ‘influencer’. There are three reasons why. Firstly, I don’t think the term is accurate enough. ‘Influencers’ create, guide and inspire, they don’t just influence. Secondly, every guest is an influencer, so I don’t think the people can be categorized as either an ‘influencer’ or not. Each guest that stays with us will influence their friends and families. They may not have a social ‘reach’ in the millions, but their influence will be trusted and valued.
Finally, everyone is an influencer in their own way. This is why we have an internal policy at Carlson Rezidor to identify people of influence within our own business, and help promote them on our internal platforms.
We know our employees have influence inside and outside of the business. They have influence with their colleagues, which will in turn shape the DNA of our business and influence everyone right to the very top. And they have influence outside of the business, in their social and familial circles, and on their social channels.
In engaging the ‘influencers’ that matter both inside and outside the business, we demonstrate our ability to use emotional intelligence to build personal relationships with our guests and our internal teams. We show our own employees that we value the stories they have to share, and that we want them to have a platform through which to share them. We show potential guests that we understand what they are looking for in their experience with one of our Carlson Rezidor brands by showcasing the experience we have to offer, and the stories we have to tell on the channel of an influencer that they know, and trust.
Renu Snehi is Vice President, Corporate Communications at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. She has over 15 years’ strategy-to-implementation experience, delivering integrated communication strategy including corporate, investor, brand, marketing, media relations, social media and internal communications for a publicly listed company in the travel and tourism industry.mail the author
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