MH: What makes the most successful marketing content in the world of hospitality?
MW: The number one thing is simple imagery, which inspires people to act. You need well-lit, beautiful lighting and something which gives the client the reason to say ‘I am worth more.’ There is so much noise out there, but the right timing, the right image and a message which resonates will be remembered. It works best when a photographer works with a hospitality business’ marketing people who have the same vision and know how to push this message across to their audience. Interesting, eye-catching content is key.
As an example, I worked with a charity and created an image for their annual gala dinner. Two years later, I got a phone call from a person who had the book on their desk because he liked the image so much, and when the time came for him to need a photographer, he returned to the marketing materials and came back from me. From the standpoint of a hotel, restaurant, bar, or coffee shop standpoint, it’s no different. You need content which really stands out.
MH: How have trends changed over the years when it comes to creating visual content which works?
MW: Clients are now more savvy than ever before and those in hospitality realise they need to make noise and have beautiful imagery. If people don’t have a visually exciting website, this is their ‘shop window’ and they have to play catch-up. Websites must be image-rich. Clients also look for their brand compliant photography and and the more playful, Instagram-friendly content now.
MH: Which channels work best to post photo or video content on?
MW: Leveraging instagram is important for so many, coming up with interesting ways to engage the customers that are staying in hotels or visiting their venues. This helps B2C hospitality venues to reach out, however Instagram photography can have a short life and be disposable. LinkedIn is a platform which many in the hotel business miss out on. I get so many people messaging me on LinkedIn asking about venues, and it reaches business travellers, which form a large amount of hotels’ business This is an ongoing driving force, so LinkedIn should also be driven as a platform for imagery to be shared in hospitality.
MH: In which scenarios would you recommend photography, and which would you recommend videography?
MW: Photography should be the starting point. Video is lovely to have and is a way to tell a story, however it’s also really easy to mess up and end up with something generic, or which nobody likes unless you get it done properly. With video, it’s all about making quick, snappy videos to get your message across. A photo, you have a lot more control over. Photography is what you see in the branding and it’s vital to have from the beginning. It’s like buying a flat and a house. You start with the flat, and work your way up to buying the house.
MH: What would you recommend a hospitality venue owner considers before deciding on their photographer or videographer?
Think about budget. A hospitality venue owner should do their research and allocate a suitable budget. If you’re spending a lot on the renovation of a venue, you need to allocate budget for image quality which matches the quality of your hotel and represents the brand in the way you want it to be seen. If you’re promoting the best and expensive prices, you need to take photography seriously.
Know your objectives. Be prepared to be frank and upfront about what you’re looking to achieve, taking timings into consideration and explaining this to the photographer. Everything is negotiable and hospitality venue owners should know what they’re looking for. The perfect analogy would be walking into John Lewis and asking for a fridge. They wouldn’t say “here you go, here’s our top of the range £5,000 fridge, would you like it wrapped?” There are ways to meet expectations and ways to reduce costs where required, so don’t be afraid to be honest and explain your priorities.
Know the image you want to present. Present your venue realistically so customers know what to expect. If you’re a three star hotel, don’t put flowers in the room and if you’re a seven star hotel, you’d better have flowers in the room! Make sure bed sheets are pressed and housekeeping have made that room perfect. A lot can be fixed in photoshop but it makes such a difference when the venue makes sure everything is in order.
Allocate resources to the shoot day, or days. The most successful shoots have an operations manager at the hotel to make sure everything goes smoothly. It’s all about making sure the staff and crew are on hand so the shoot doesn’t run over and you can meet your objectives within your budget. Sometimes, this can be as simple as having extra people on hand to help move furniture if needed.
Be prepared. Make sure the marketing person isn’t working in a void and is on hand to communicate with the photographer. Have the venue ready to avoid wasted shoot time. It’s often simple things which are forgotten ahead of the shoot, such as having the signage up in a hotel. We can always make it possible post-production, but making sure it is ready ahead of the shoot cuts costs down.
Communicate. Be prepared to have a frank discussion where you’re honest with what you need and your budget. The venue should know what to expect on the day, the photographer’s processes and everything that’s required from them, whether it’s a broom to brush the carpets, or clean glassware for decorative purposes. Similarly, the photographer should know of any specific shots you require, meaning they can plan ahead and bring the right equipment. Typically, unexpected requests mean unplanned for additional costs.
Understand the package. Find out exactly what you get. Ask about the photographer’s timescales, find out how many photos are licensed for shoots, or how long the video will be, making sure your expectations are accurate.