If you are thinking of attending Hotelympia this year - it's at the Excel Centre in London's Docklands from Feb 26th to March 1st inclusive, see www.hotelympia.com - please try to make Tuesday Feb 28th the day you come.
That's because the organisers have entrusted me with hosting a panel discussion on THE STAGE at 2pm with three leading hoteliers: Stephen Carter, Robin Hutson and Richard Ball, all of whom have had the distinction of being voted "Hotelier of the Year" by the readers of Caterer & Hotelkeeeper magazine. Hecklers are especially welcome, so long as they have a good question for our panellists.
Later that day (4pm) I shall be interviewing Sir David Michels about his role as the new President of the Institute of Hospitality as well as his varied experience in some of the country's top boardrooms.
Oh yes, and there might be one or two stands with interesting things for sale.
An important challenge befell the members of our board the other day when the four PR agencies whom I had invited to pitch for our business made their presentations, one after the other, and took questions from the hoteliers in the room to establish which was best suited to handle Pride of Britain's PR over the next few years.
Because we are a consortium of 43 independent hotels, the chosen agency needs to be able to adapt to the needs of a wide variety of establishments, whilst helping us to boost the reputation and recognition of the brand itself. Yes, 30 years on and incredibly there are still people who have never heard of us.
All of the shortlisted companies impressed us with their knowledge, enthusiasm, grasp of modern communications and understanding of the workings of the media. One had to be selected and so we went for the people who seemed most attuned to our peculiar ways but in truth I doubt we would have regretted taking on any of them.
What interested me greatly was the range of aswers to the question "how should we expect to measure your success?" The fact is that the results of good PR, like much of marketing in general, can be a devil of a job to quantify. Some might look at the number of column inches in newspapers achieved and try to calculate what that would have cost as paid-for advertising. Apparently this is no longer regarded as a the way to judge the outcome, since merely being mentioned in one publication could drive far less business than a really interesting piece in another. Also, we know that introducing journalists to a new property is no guarantee of a favourable write up - the best of them have too much integrity at stake. And now the bribery act has been passed I suppose we must rely on good hotel-keeping to win them over!