In one of his seminal blog posts on the power of story telling, marketing guru Seth Godin writes:
“Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences. A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.”
Perusing my daily social media feeds, I noted that the The Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville was doing something special that I hadn’t seen before; actively engaging their Associates in their social media efforts. For example, this Facebook post featuring Bellman Munandar’s visit to Niagara Falls was unlike the conventional hotel posts I was used to seeing.
This post tells a story and it feels authentic. The story is that the Toronto Marriott Bloor has a Bellman who loves his city and is a credible source of information about what to see and do around Toronto because he himself visits these places and takes great pictures. Content like this doesn’t happen by accident. I sat down with Melissa Leone, Social Media Marketing Manager at LARCO Hospitality, to understand the Toronto Marriott Bloor’s unique approach to engaging Hospitality Associates to tell powerful stories.
1. Engage Associates: Melissa works directly with workers at the Toronto Marriott Bloor and identifies Associates who are well suited to being social media champions. These are people who are most-likely already active on social media in their personal lives: “The Champions we identified are already excited about social media” says Melissa, “we didn’t want this to feel like another task on their list.” Champions represent a wide range of departments and focus on social media platforms that they enjoy posting to. The Associates themselves determine whether they’ll focus their efforts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Linkedin.
2. Train for Story-Telling not Technology: Associates are provided with short & intensive training designed to help them understand the core principles of story-telling:
“We help them think about the basics of good story telling like character, setting, plot. Good story telling is more important than technology skills. It helps create content that is authentic and engaging. Learning about the platforms is key, but knowing how to tell a good story in a single post is vital.”
Ultimately, Associates can provide a nuanced sense of life in-and-around the hotel that traditional marketing messages just won’t capture. Melissa says: “It makes us accessible to the public, showing that our hotel staff are friendly, knowledgable and welcoming. It demonstrates that staying with us is a special experience.” One great example of this story-telling came from Marriott Bloor Director of Human Resources, Nicole Aumell who caught Toronto’s Pan-Am fever and decided to photograph the event’s mascot Pachi at key locations around the hotel.
3. Secure Buy-In: Melissa is adamant on this point: “The management team has to be on-board for this to get off the ground.” Securing buy in not only means that managers give Associates permission to post to social media platforms during work-hours, but that there’s overall buy-in to social media as a touchpoint that enhances guest experiences. “It’s a new space,” says Melissa, “but if a guest Tweets us about an issue at 2am, the duty manager needs to be prepared to respond and make guests feel like we’re listening and attending to their needs.”
4. Relinquish Some Control: After they go through a rigorous training process, Melissa empowers trained Associates to post directly to social media channels. That means that posts aren’t vetted by communications staff or managers. Melissa admits, it can be unnerving to relinquish control, but that it ultimately pays-off:
“We want our social media champions to feel like they’re in the drivers’ seat. Being in control gives our Associates a sense of pride and ownership over their content. They know they are the eyes and ears of the hotel and that we trust them to do a good job.”
5. Treat Every Day Like a Major Sports Event: In her past life, Melissa was Social Media Coordinator at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and would live-tweet sports events. You may not think that the hotel’s Ambassador Appreciation Week is on-par with a run for the Stanley Cup, but it is for hotel Associates who share their pride with family and friends. Melissa live-tweeted this year’s Ambassador Appreciation Week to show Associates Bloor Marriott’s pride in their Associates’ performance. In addition, with support from her Director, Melissa and her counterpart in Vancouver have created property-wide contests that encourage associates to capture their adventures in and around Toronto (the photo on Facebook is one example of a contest entry). These kind of initiatives help Associates and Management see that the relatively “mundane” daily events that happen are important, and share-worthy.
Finally, we asked Melissa to share key resources for doing social media right. Here are her excellent picks: