Knowledge is power

(Sept. 29, 2011)-Two tough weeks on the road are catching up with me as I pen this column with stuffy head, stuffy nose and a painful cough, due to the not-so-pleasant combination of allergies and a cold.

At least that’s what the doctors say, but surely it must have something to do with the change of the seasons.I can’t believe how warm it is in New York this week, after temperatures plunged deeply a week ago as I left for the sunny U.S. Virgin Islands to address the USVI Department of Tourism’s second annual Small Hotels Conference on Public Relations Strategies for Small Hotels.

The highlight of the conference for me-other than escaping the cool temperatures and the exhilarating 18-minute sea plane ride between St. Thomas and St. Croix-was the re-affirmation of the importance of continuing education, especially in the area of new media.

With technology moving at a dazzling speed, the conference was a great opportunity to learn about the simple things we can do in the areas of search engine optimization and social media to remain on the cutting edge, drive visitor traffic to websites and engage in quality and productive conversations with past, current and future customers.San Diego-based Bill Bacellar of Tericon Media shared a number of tips and tricks on how a business can become top-ranked on the Google search engine, the importance of video marketing and on how to build a link profile.

Leon Thomas, a senior trainer for Choice Hotels International, described social media as both a customer service and a loyalty building opportunity. As of last week, there were approximately 753 million Facebook subscribers and more than 250 million people on Twitter (half of the Twitter population logs in every day).

I pointed out the continuing value of media relations strategies, partnerships, promotions and crisis communications. I shared the basics of drafting news releases and, like Bacellar and Thomas, underscored the importance of integrating video into our communications messages. I also touched on integrating public relations with sales.

The conference also featured presentations on “Safety and Security Measures for Small Hotels,” “Energy Efficiency for Small Hotels” and “Motivating Your Team to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.”

All in all, it was another inspiring visit to the Caribbean and I have returned refocused, renewed and ready to continue batting for the region from whence I came.Now if only I can shake off this cold in 24 hours, I’ll be well positioned to hit a home run.

See you next week!