Gail Aldridge, Marketing Director, The Belfry Hotel & Resort

What are the main challenges you’ve faced during the pandemic when it comes to brand presence and awareness, and how have you overcome them?

Our main challenge during the pandemic was our reduced marketing activity. We had to pause all the activity we had originally planned while the resort was closed which was a challenge logistically. For example, March and April is when we usually begin to promote golf at the resort, but we had to put this on hold until the golf courses reopened in June. Although we were fortunate that this didn’t affect our business on the books too much once we reopened.

We worked with our agencies, including davies tanner, to come up with a short term strategy and activity plan and to develop new content, and internally we kept in touch regularly with our guests, our databases, and our followers. All of this helped us massively. Having kept the dialogue with our customers and media open albeit in a different way, when we did reopen the opportunities began to come back in which meant we had no brand awareness or presence challenges.

Has maintaining a media presence (thorough interviews and press coverage) helped The Belfry and if so how?

Yes, most definitely. In fact, working with davies tanner not only maintained brand awareness while we were closed, but also helped us to establish and build new media relationships throughout the pandemic. These media relationships have helped to boost our ongoing media coverage and genuinely has reaped dividends. When we did open, the interest for the resort was still there which had a very positive impact on our media coverage, customer perception and awareness of our reopening.

And social media – have you changed the way you use that and how do you think it’s helped during the time The Belfry was closed?

We changed our social media tone so it was less sales and marketing led, and instead we created more of an emotional and personal connection with our followers to keep them informed on what was happening at the resort and to gear everyone up for the reopening, in return we saw an increase in reach and engagement. We have definitely learnt a huge amount in terms of communicating with our audiences and this has affected our strategy and plans going forward as we want to continue to build on what we achieved over the past few months.

Have you used any new technologies or changed the way you use existing technology to communicate with and interact with customers and other audiences?

We used this period to adapt our technologies which included upgrading our meetings and events system, Delphi, which is all cloud based, and makes it easier from a user point of view and more connected to our clients from a business point of view.

We also invested in OPERA Cloud to ensure a safer, more flexible guest experience. Moving to the cloud has also helped to reduce IT costs and complexity, secure data, and offer access to enhanced integrations. We have also developed our guest technology so guests can have the option to view menus, order food and drinks to their room, and pay for their stay without any need for face-to-face contact.

Despite it being a challenging few months for us, and the industry, we have seen a number of genuine positives that have come out of the pandemic in terms of the way we communicate with our audiences. It has taught us how valuable that emotional and personal connection with our audience is, whether that is through our newsletters, social media posts or PR content. It has also shown us how important it is to continue to build and develop those media connections and continue to raise our brand presence in multiple areas, from golf to meetings and events to travel, through local and regional media coverage.