Red Carpet at the HBAA Forum

(L-R) Chris Sheppardson - Chess Executive, Belinda Booker - CAT Publications, Sat Bal - Red Carpet, Paul Coulston - Mash Media

The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) ‘Future Vision’ Forum hosted 300-plus hotels and agencies at its keynote annual event this September. As part of the event Red Carpet editor Sat Bal was invited to join a panel of editors for the Forum’s ‘How to hone the perfect pitch’ session.


The HBAA Forum has established a pulling power for business chiefs from agencies, venues and hotels and its 2011 event was no exception. UK and international delegates assembled at The Ramada Manchester Piccadilly hotel to discuss and debate hospitality industry trends and best practice.


Andrew White and Paola Cubillos of PR firm Triggerfish Communications hosted a lively session which steered the assembled audience of hospitality professionals through the strapline topic: How to hone the perfect pitch. The ensuing session provided distilled insight into ways of getting stories into media outlets.


So your chairman wants that “hot” announcement in print, online and on time. Your job is to pitch it past pressurised editors into their media outlets. How?  The following nuggets emerged from our discussion with a full-house audience :


What are the basics of a good PR pitch?

Bear in mind that yours is just one of many proposals and pitches vying for editorial attention. Be succinct and precise with what you have to offer and introduce it as early as possible. The five Ws of journalism should be introduced in the first paragraph of any press release or discussion : Who, What, Why, Where and When. Editors like facts, not opinions.


What should or shouldn’t I do when pitching to editors?

Don’t send mass-distributed, impersonal e-mails; they’ll get deleted. Exclusivity is what gets editors excited - not mails that they know have been sent to rival publications en masse without any tailoring. 

Do your research on the outlet you’re pitching to and get a strong feel for why its readers will be interested in your proposal.  Nearly all magazines adopt an online presence now so it’s unforgiveable not to scan their websites and pick up key facts about editorial coverage and columns prior to pitching.

Don’t  impose unnecessary embargoes on non time-sensitive content. It'll undermine your news release.

Do use social media channels. The HBAA panel consensus was that Twitter pitches are becoming increasingly popular for PR professionals and journalists.

Do make it relevant. It might be of interest within your company but is it of wider industry or public interest? Avoid a reputation for peddling minor news eg. your company’s new or revamped website – unless it comes with additional sit-up-and-read variety


Do editors like us to include images and website links in a pitch?

Mixed responses from the panel on this. While most of agreed to the inclusion of images, perhaps as thumbnails, there was less enthusiasm over web links. These are best left until the end of the digital press release.


When is the time to send you a pitch?

We unanimously agreed that after press deadline was the most sensible time to send pitches. See the article headline!


How do you like to receive pitches: phone or e-mail?

The editors’ panel was open to both approaches. However, it was agreed that e-mail gave the PR professional two bites at the cherry. It allowed an interested editor to  forward the mail to a colleague with minimal explanation. The PR could then follow it up by phone after a sensible time delay.

Introducing the pitch by phone is fine but are you sure you have all the facts and angles to hand? Of course, there are inherent risks here eg. contacting a crabby editor on deadline day. Can you convince the editor that his/her readers should be interested in your idea, in a matter of minutes?

As a rough rule of thumb allow three minutes for a crabby editor - and a more leisurely five to eight minutes for a non-crabby editor.


Don't overwrite the press release

This is no time to attempt literary masterpieces particularly when the news desk is juggling other stories with all eyes on press deadline. Treat the press release as an information channel. Leave the adjectives to the writers so that they can...write.


HBAA Forum key sponsors:

Cvent, Video Inn Production, Ramada Manchester Piccadilly Hotel, ABC Connection, IML, All About Flights, IHG, Maun Consulting, Perception Sales & Marketing, Relais Chateaux and The Representation Company.


HBAA Forum Award winners

Best Demonstration of CSR  -   Winner:  ACC Liverpool

Training & Development Award -  Winner:  Malmaison/Hotel du Vin

Promoting Excellence within the Industry -  Winner:  Trinity Conferences

Venue of the year - Winner: Peckforton Castle

Small agent of the year (Up to 20 employees) - Winner: First Choice Conference and Events

Medium agent of the year ( 21 to 50 employees) - Winner: Conference Care

Large agent of the year (Agency with over 51 employees) - Winner: Hotelscene

Juliet Price, Chair of the HBAA said: “Congratulations to all of those shortlisted and in particular to the winners.  These awards really do recognise the dedication and vigour that we have in raising levels of professionalism in the association and wider sector”.  



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