Tag Archives: digital media

My Latest Edited Book on Destination Marketing

An Excerpt from the Preface of “Strategic Perspectives in Destination Marketing” (forthcoming):

The marketing of a destination relies on planning, organization and the successful execution of strategies and tactics. Therefore, this authoritative book provides students and practitioners with relevant knowledge of tourism planning and destination marketing. The readers are equipped with a strong pedagogical base on the socio-economic, environmental and technological impacts on the attractiveness of tourist destinations. At the same time, this publication presents contemporary conceptual discussions as well as empirical studies on different aspects of the travel and tourism industries.

The readers of this book will acquire a good understanding of the tourism marketing environment, destination marketing and branding, pricing of tourism products, tourism distribution channels, etourism, as well as on sustainable and responsible tourism practices, and among other topics. They will appreciate that the tourism marketers, including destination management organizations (DMOs) are increasingly using innovative tools, including; digital media and ubiquitous technologies to engage with prospective visitors. Hence, this book also sheds light on the latest industry developments in travel, tourism, hospitality and events.

Chapter 1 introduces the readers to the tourism concept as it describes the travel facilitators and motivators. Afterwards, it explains several aspects of the tourism product, including; the visitors’ accessibility, accommodation, attractions, activities and amenities. It categorizes different travel markets; including; adventure tourism, business tourism (including meetings, incentives, conferences and events), culinary tourism, cultural (or heritage) tourism, eco-tourism (or sustainable tourism), educational tourism, health (or medical tourism), religious tourism, rural tourism, seaside tourism, sports tourism, urban (or city) tourism, wine tourism, among other niche areas.

Chapter 2 examines how foreign tourist intermediaries perceive Portugal as a tourist destination. It analyzes the promotional information that they use to attract visitors to this Southern European destination. This contribution recognizes that the tour operators have an important role in intermediating the relationship between the tourists and the tourism service providers. The authors suggest that tourism relies on the destination’s image that is often being portrayed by the foreign tourism intermediaries.

Chapter 3 explores the cruising consumers’ behaviors and their decision-making processes. The authors maintain that the destination, the social life on board as well as the cruise features are very important factors for consumer loyalty. In conclusion, they recommend that cruise lines should create synergies with local institutions in tourist destinations.

Chapter 4 investigates the Spanish inhabitants’ opinions on the tourism industry’s seasonality issues. The findings suggest that the local residents who live in the coastal destinations were in favor of having tourism activity throughout the year; as opposed to other host communities from urban and rural destinations (in Spain) who indicated that they would enjoy a break from tourist activity during the low / off peak seasons.

Chapter 5 provides a critical review about the pricing and revenue management strategies that are increasingly being adopted within the tourism and hospitality contexts. The authors introduce the readers to the concept of “rate fencing”. This proposition suggests that businesses ought to differentiate among various customer segments, as they should attract and develop relationships with the most profitable ones.

Chapter 6 appraises the use of qualitative reviews and quantitative ratings in interactive media. The authors also engage in a discussion on the content analysis of the online users’ generated content (UGC). They posit that it is in the interest of tourism and hospitality businesses to respond to positive and negative word of mouth publicity in reasonable time, as they may have to deal with fake and unverified reviews.

Chapter 7 clarifies how online travel businesses, including; AirTickets, AirBnB and TripAdvisor among others, are continuously investing in their communication technologies and infrastructures to improve their online users’ experience. The author contends that innovative technologies, such as recommender systems and control frameworks are supporting the travel businesses’ in their customer-centric approaches.

Chapter 8 discusses about the concept of the brand identity of destinations from the suppliers’ perspective. The author puts forward a case study on the city of Porto, in Portugal. She explicates how this tourist destination has used an authenticity-based approach to leverage itself as a distinct brand identity among other destinations.

Chapter 9 proposes an ambitious plan to attract visitors to Buxton, Derbyshire. Firstly, the authors focus on the marketing endeavors of a local renovated hotel. Secondly, they provide relevant examples of how other wellness and spa towns in Britain, including; Bath and Harrogate are organizing events and festivals to attract international tourists throughout the year.

Chapter 10 explains how a perceived (positive) image can provide a sustainable competitive advantage to tourism destinations. The authors argue that the historical events as well as other socio-political factors can possibly affect the visitors’ (pre-)conceptions of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. However, they imply that the tourists’ positive experiences could translate to positive publicity for this destination.

Chapter 11 elucidates the notion of destination branding in the rural context. The author maintains that there are both opportunities and challenges for tourism policy makers to preserve the traditional farms and rural dwellings, in order to safeguard their distinct identity. He posits that the rural environment can add value to the tourist destinations and their branding.

Chapter 12 posits that today’s tour operators are highly driven by technology as prospective travelers are searching for online information about their destinations prior to their visits. The authors describe the digital marketing strategies and tactics that are used to promote Malawi, in Africa. They suggest that the inbound tour operators are increasingly using relevant content marketing through interactive technologies and social media to engage with prospective visitors.

Chapter 13 evaluates potential strategies that could be used to develop the tourism product in Adiyaman, Turkey. The authors identify the core responsibilities of the tourism stakeholders and put forward their key recommendations for the branding of this rural destination.

In sum, this authoritative publication is written in an engaging style that entices the curiosity of prospective readers. It explains all the theory in a simple and straightforward manner. This book reports on the global tourism marketing environments that comprise a wide array of economic, socio-cultural and environmental issues. It explains how technological advances have brought significant changes to the tourism industry and its marketing mix.

This book was written by academics for other scholars, researchers, advanced under-graduate and post-graduate students; as it provides a thorough literature review on different tourism topics, including; destination marketing and branding, sustainable and responsible tourism, tourism technologies, digital marketing, travel distribution and more. It is also relevant to the industry practitioners, including consultants, senior executives and managers who work for destination management organizations, tourism offices, hotels, inbound / outbound tour operators and travel agents, among others.

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Tourism Futures: Targeting Customers in the Digital Age

This is an excerpt from: Camilleri’s latest book on Travel Marketing (2018)

How to Cite: Camilleri, M. A. (2018). Market Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. In Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product (Chapter 4, pp. 69-83). Springer, Cham, Switzerland.

The advances in technology have enabled many businesses to reach their potential customers by using digital and mobile applications.

Google, Facebook, Ebay and Amazon, among others are dominating digital marketing; and are pushing the entire field of advertising to new levels. The use of personal info, web-browsing, search history, geographic location, apps and eCommerce transactions have gone mainstream. For example, Google has begun using transaction records to prove that its ads are working, and are pushing people to make more online purchases. This allowed the technology giant to determine the effectiveness of its digital ad campaigns and to verify their conversion rates.

All individuals leave a “digital trail” of data as they move about in the virtual and physical worlds. This phenomenon is called, “data exhaust”. Initially, this term that was used to describe how Amazon.com has used predictive analytics as it suggested items to its customers. However, pre­dictive analytics cannot determine when and why individuals may decide to change their habitual behaviours, as the possibility of “one off” events must never be discounted. Yet, a firm with sufficient scarce resources could be in a position to exploit big data and analytics to improve its businesses operations.

For instance, Deloitte Consulting have developed a mobile app that has enabled Delta Airlines’ executives to quickly query their operations. For instance, when users touch an airport on a map, the system brings up additional data at their disposal. Executives could also drill further down to obtain granular information on staffing requirements. and customer service levels, as they identify and predict problems in their airline operations.

Nevertheless, business intelligence and predictive analytics could possibly raise a number of concerns. Many customers may be wary of giving their data to the businesses and their stakeholders. Very often, the technological advances anticipate legislation, and its deployment. These contingent issues could advance economic and privacy concerns that regulators will find themselves hard-pressed to ignore. Some academics argue that the digital market and its manipulation may be pushing the limits of consumer protection law. Evidently, society has built up a set of rules that are aimed to protect personal information. Another contentious issue is figuring out the value of data and its worth in monetary terms. In the past, companies could have struggled to determine the value of their business; including patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property.

Targeted Segmentation through Mobile Devices

The mobile is an effective channel to reach out to many users. Portable devices, including smart phones and tablets are surely increasing the productivities and efficiencies of individuals as well as organisations. This has led to the growth of mobile applications (apps). As a result, the market for advertising on mobile is still escalating at a fast pace. Moreover, there are niche areas as new applications are being developed for many purposes on different mobile platforms.

Recent advances in mobile communication and geo-positioning technologies have presented marketers with a new way how to target consumers. Location-targeted mobile advertising involves the provision of ad messages to mobile data subscribers. This digital technology allows marketers to deliver native ads and coupons that are customised to individual consumers’ tastes, geographic location and the time of day. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, location-targeted mobile advertising are increasingly offering tremendous marketing benefits.

In addition, many businesses are commonly utilising applications, including browser cookies that track consumers through their mobile devices, as they move out and about. Very often, when internet users leave the sites they visited, the products or services they viewed will be shown to them again in retargeted advertisements, across different websites. Several companies are using browsing session data combined with the consumers’ purchase history to deliver “suitable” items that consumers like. There are also tourism businesses who are personalising their offerings as they collect, classify and use large data volumes on the consumers’ behaviours. As more consumers carry smartphones with them, they may be easily targeted with compelling offers that instantaneously pop-up on their mobile screens.

Furthermore, consumers are continuously using social networks which are indicating their geo-location, as they use mobile apps. This same data can be used to identify where people tend to gather. This information is valuable to brands as they seek to improve their consumer engagement and marketing efforts. Therefore, businesses are using mobile devices and networks to capture important consumer data. For instance, smart phones and tablets interact with networks and convey information on their users’ digital behaviours and physical movements to network providers and ISPs. These devices have become interactive through the proliferation of technologies, including; near-field communication (NFC). Basically, embedded chips in the customers’ mobile phones are exchanging data with the retailers’ items possessing such NFC tags. The latest iPhone, Android and Microsoft smartphones have already incorporated NFC ca­pabilities. The growth of such data-driven, digital technologies is surely adding value to the customer-centric marketing. The latest developments in analytics are enabling businesses to provide a deeper personalisation of content as they use socio-demographic and geo-data that new mobile technologies are capable of gathering.

For example, mobile service companies are partnering with local cinemas, in response to the location-targeted mobile advertising; as cinema-goers may inquire about movie information, and could book tickets, and select their seats through their mobile app. These consumers who are physically situated within a given geographic proximity of the participating cinemas may receive location-targeted mobile ads. The cinemas’ ads will inform prospects what movies they are playing and could explain how to purchase tickets through their smart phone. The consumers may also call the cinemas’ hotlines to get more information from a customer service representative. Besides location-targeted advertising, the mobile companies can also promote movie ticket sales via mobile ads that are targeted to individuals, according to their behaviour (not by location). Therefore, companies may direct their mobile-ad messages to those consumers who had previously responded to previous mobile ads (and to others who had already purchased movie tickets, in the past months). Moreover, the cinema companies can also promote movies via Facebook Messenger Ads if they logged in the companies’ websites, via their Facebook account. Mobile users may also receive instant message ads via pop-up windows whenever they log into the corporate site of their service provider.

It is envisaged that such data points will only increase in the foreseeable future, as the multi-billion dollar advertising monopolies are being built on big data and analytics that are helping businesses personalise immersive ads as they target individual customers. The use of credit card transactions is also complementing geo-targeting and Google Maps, with ads; as the physical purchases are increasingly demanding personalisation, fulfillment and convenience. There may be consumers and employees alike who out of their own volition, are willing to give up their data for value. Therefore, the businesses need to reassure them through concise disclosures on how they will use personal data. They should clarify the purpose of maintaining their consumer data, as they are expected to provide simple user controls to opt in and out of different levels of data sharing. This way, they could establish a trust-worthy relationship with customers and prospects.

Companies are already personalising their shopping experience based on the user situation and history. Tomorrow’s tourism businesses are expected to customise the user experiences of their mobile applications and web interfaces, according to the specific needs of each segment. Big data and analytics capabilities are increasingly allowing businesses to fully leverage their rich data from a range of new digital touchpoints and to turn them into high impact interactions. Those businesses that are able to reorient their marketing and product-development efforts around digital customer segments and behaviours will be in a position to tap into the hyper-growth that mobile, social media and the wearables markets are currently experiencing.

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Springer’s textbook for tourism students and practitioners, including airline managers

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Reserve an Online Book Review Copy

Springer’s authoritative textbook, Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product has received numerous endorsements from leading academics.

“Dr. Camilleri provides tourism students and practitioners with a clear and comprehensive picture of the main institutions, operations and activities of the travel industry.”
Philip Kotler
, S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago, IL, USA

“This book is the first of its kind to provide an insightful and well-structured application of travel and tourism marketing and economics to the airline industry. Student readers will find this systematic approach invaluable when placing aviation within the wider tourism context, drawing upon the disciplines of economics and marketing.”
Brian King, Professor of Tourism and Associate Dean, School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

“The remarkable growth in international tourism over the last century has been directly influenced by technological, and operational innovations in the airline sector which continue to define the nature, scale and direction of tourist flows and consequential tourism development. Key factors in this relationship between tourism and the airline sector are marketing and economics, both of which are fundamental to the success of tourism in general and airlines in particular, not least given the increasing significance of low-cost airline operations. Hence, uniquely drawing together these three themes, this book provides a valuable introduction to the marketing and economics of tourism with a specific focus on airline operations, and should be considered essential reading for future managers in the tourism sector.”
Richard Sharpley, Professor of Tourism, School of Management, University of Central Lancashire, UK

“The book’s unique positioning in terms of the importance of and the relationships between tourism marketing, tourism economics and airline product will create a distinct niche for the book in the travel literature.”
C. Michael Hall, Professor of Tourism, Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

“A very unique textbook that offers integrated lessons on marketing, economics, and airline services. College students of travel and tourism in many parts of the world will benefit from the author’s thoughtful writing style of simplicity and clarity.”
Liping A. Cai, Professor and Director, Purdue Tourism & Hospitality Research Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

“An interesting volume that provides a good coverage of airline transportation matters not always well considered in tourism books. Traditional strategic and operational issues, as well as the most recent developments and emerging trends are dealt with in a concise yet clear and rational way. Summaries, questions and topics for discussion in each chapter make it a useful basis for both taught courses or self-education.”
Rodolfo Baggio, Professor of Tourism and Social Dynamics, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy

“This is a very useful introductory book that summarises a wealth of knowledge in an accessible format. It explains the relation between marketing and economics, and applies it to the business of airline management as well as the tourism industry overall.”
Xavier Font, Professor of Sustainability Marketing, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Surrey, UK and Visiting Professor, Hospitality Academy, NHTV Breda, Netherlands

“This book addresses  the key principles of tourism marketing, economics and the airline industry. It  covers a wide range of theory at the same time as offering real-life case studies, and offers readers a comprehensive understanding of  how these important industries work, and the underpinning challenges that will shape their future. It is suitable for undergraduate students as well as travel professionals, and I would highly recommend it.”
Clare Weeden, Principal Lecturer in Tourism and Marketing at the School of Sport and Service Management, University of Brighton, UK

“In the current environment a grasp of the basics of marketing to diverse consumers is very important. Customers are possessed of sophisticated knowledge driven by innovations in business as well from highly developed technological advances. This text will inform and update students and those planning a career in travel and tourism. Mark Camilleri has produced an accessible book, which identifies ways to accumulate and use new knowledge to be at the vanguard of marketing, which is both essential and timely.”
Peter Wiltshier, Senior Lecturer & Programme Leader for Travel & Tourism, College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, University of Derby, UK

“This contemporary text provides an authoritative read on the dynamics, interactions and complexities of the modern travel and tourism industries with a necessary, and much welcomed, mixture of theory and practice suitable for undergraduate, graduate and professional markets.” 
Alan Fyall, Orange County Endowed Professor of Tourism Marketing, University of Central Florida, FL, USA

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Travel Search Engines and Price Comparison Websites

search

Many search engines are increasingly offering advantageous deals on travel products. Very often, they may have user-friendly websites that help individual consumers search for the best prices. For example, a flight search may include one-way, return or multiple destinations. The travellers may specify whether they would like to travel in a particular class of service (for example, economy, business or first class). Travellers may also opt for direct services (which are usually more expensive), and their search can be narrowed down according to their preferred departure and arrival times (if any).

In addition, many search engines identify their “best flight” option. Their algorithm will usually base their decision on layover time, the length of flight, and departure/arrivals times. They may also let you know if there are cheaper flights available, particularly if there are nearby airports.

Price Alerts: The search engines will enable their users to set a price alert on tourism products. For example, after the users have given details on the travel dates and their email address, they will receive regular emails which will communicate whether the price for the flight (that was searched through the search engines’ system) has gone up or down in price.

Travel alerts are convenient for those passengers who are planning their itineraries in advance. Online prospects will be updated on the best time to purchase their flight (in this case).

Flight Deal Websites: Online prospects can find good flight deals by following niche websites that are dedicated to posting such deals. Most of these websites may not necessarily be affiliated with any airline. Very often, consumers may check these websites on a regular basis. Alternatively, they may follow travel and tourism groups through social media.

Flexibility: An inexpensive flight may not always be the right flight for passengers. The prospective customers may demand flexible dates. For instance, they may want to avoid unnecessary overnight stays in random cities (a hotel accommodation may well increase the cost of the travellers’ journey). Moreover, there are other important considerations. For example, customers may not be willing to travel to distant airports. They may not like to travel at night, et cetera.

The best flight deals may not last long as search engines may frequently change their flight prices.

Bonus Tip: Many low-cost carriers may not feature all costs in their prices. These “hidden” costs may comprise carry-on baggage fees, checked-baggage charges and seat fees. Customers should check these fees and charges before purchasing a flight with any airline. Such “hidden” costs and expenses are usually disclosed on the airlines’ respective websites. In many cases these supplementary fees can be paid in advance. If customers would not pay in anticipation of their flight, they may easily incur additional charges.

Therefore, the overall best deal should be determined according to flight times, hidden costs, and personal airline preferences.

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Key Elements of Travel Websites

website

The travel and tourism businesses are increasingly using corporate websites as they help them improve consumer leads and sales conversions. In addition, their clear, differentiated pricing information on service-tiers provide product options to online prospects. The tourism products ought to focus on the benefits they provide, by highlighting their value propositions; rather than simply illustrating their features. Despite the fact that so many transactions are carried out online, the travel websites could lack in their provision of personal interaction. This means that even the smallest thing that’s out of place on the ecommerce pages could possibly rapidly erode the customers’ trust in products and services. Therefore, tourism businesses could build consumer confidence and trust by using an SSL certificate to make transactions secure, particularly if they are processing credit cards.

The travel businesses’ corporate websites are expected to articulate their terms and conditions, including any relevant cancellation and refund policies. They should also feature their contact details (including an address, telephone and emails) to customers and prospects. Many sites could offer live chat facilities on their site, to help online customers in their queries, or to address their concerns.

If the businesses do not offer such interactions in real time, they still need acknowledge their online prospects’ message(s), and inform them that they will be responding to them in reasonable time. Moreover, the use of testimonials from consumers, including; reviews and ratings will serve as proof that the tourism business is providing an adequate level of service to customers. The positive experiences from customers themselves, will help to improve conversions and sales.

The tourism web sites should underline the true benefits of their product. Hence, they should present relevant written content which will make the product stand out from the rest. In this day and age, attractive web sites should be well-designed to entertain visitors. The travel sites have to feature a good selection of images and videos. This allows prospective visitors to become familiar with the tourism product. Destination management organisations are increasingly allowing online visitors to zoom in high-res images and video clips in their websites. The interactive images and videos should load as quickly as possible. Any delays of even a couple of seconds would turn off dissatisfied visitors. The speed with which a page loads can be a critical determining factor as to whether visitors may (or may not) commit themselves to lay down their credit card. When designing product pages, it is important to consider load speeds, particularly if there are large images, rich interactivity or other media in web pages.

Very often, different product pages may clutter up web pages with excessive calls to action. These pages may contain customer photos, complicated pricing options, unnecessary details on customer support, too many reviews, et cetera. Without good web designs, these calls to action could easily blend into a confusing mess.  While it may be tempting to utilise web pages with many actionable steps, the online sites should be as clear and focused as possible. A good call to action could include high-contrast buttons, call-outs and actionable elements which leave plenty of breathing room, to make them stand out.

Online users might not be willing to commit themselves in buying products straight away. Therefore, businesses could entice visitors to fill in their subscriber list to receive exclusive offers, via email.  This way, the businesses will be in a position to send newsletters and promotional material to their online prospects, at a later date.

Businesses ought to facilitate their online purchase and transaction confirmation. A complicated funnel could deter the conversion of prospects. The customers who are in the businesses’ checkout page(s) should be allowed to finalise their purchase as quickly and efficiently as possible. If their customer experience of their online purchase involves an unnecessary effort to check out from the website; they may have second thoughts on the businesses’ quality of service. Therefore, users should not be distracted with anything that will take them away from the businesses’ purchasing funnel. It is important to let customers finish their transaction before taking them anywhere else on the website.

This article was drawn from Springer’s ‘Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product: An Introduction to Theory and Practice‘ by Mark Anthony Camilleri

 

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The use of interactive marketing in travel and tourism

Interactive marketing enables two-way communications between sellers and individual buyers. This exchange takes place online through social media, content syndication and mash-ups; tagging, wikis, web fora and message boards, customer ratings and evaluation systems, virtual worlds, podcasting, blogs, and online videos (vlogs).and blogs. Some of its advantages include the ability to precisely communicate to individuals with addressable messages that can be customised to individual consumers. Therefore, interactive marketing is also linked to content marketing.

Many companies can produce relevant content that is shared many as times through social networks. Such content may “go viral” among social media users. As a result, it can bring in many inbound leads, coming through download page, as internet users can choose what content they wish to be exposed to, respond to, and share.

 

Interactive marketing techniques typically include response mechanisms that allow consumers to respond directly to corporate communication. This marketing communication tool is much more precise and measurable, when compared to other media. The ability to measure direct and interactive marketing effects allow marketers to design communication programmes that target consumers, based on; recency – the amount of time since last purchase, frequency – the number of previous purchases, and monetary value – the total expenditures a customer makes over time.

Online businesses can make use of Google Attribution to measure the impact of their marketing across devices and cross-channels; as Google holds vast amounts of data on net users, from its services including; AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClickSearch. The technology giant has access to consumer profiles more than any other company, because it knows when they view ads in its search engine, or in Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and in its Android apps. It also knows where consumers go, both online and in the physical world, based on cookies and location data from their phones. The company will shortly be in a position to track credit and debit card transactions and to link them to online consumer behaviour (Associated Press). Google’s moves will bring significant marketing opportunities to advertisers. Businesses could leverage themselves if Google provides them with relevant data on their prospective customers’ needs and wants. Google could inform them when prospects need products or services, and what price they are willing to pay. These answers allow marketers to better target individual consumers. However, these advances will also raise privacy concerns. Wary consumers may install ad blockers, tracking blockers, and could decide to switch off their phone’s location services to ignore the greater personalisation of content from advertising.

Many individual users are using mobile devices to construct their new customer experiences. The use of social networks allows them to engage, communicate and co-create in the online world. For instance, the tourism organisations’ websites and destination management organisations are using social media networks as well as interactive communications to enable tourists to personalise their sites with their personal experiences. They empower tourists as they facilitate the co-creation of content for the benefit of others. As a result, social media users and their reviews may impact on tourism marketing. Independent reviews and ratings are often considered as trustworthy sources for prospective tourists, as they provide objective information on tourism products and services. For example, TripAdvisor provides travel-related reviews and opinions on accommodation establishments, restaurants and attractions. In addition, many websites, which are traditionally known as booking engines, including; Booking.com, Airbnb.com, et cetera, also provide reviews that are integrated in their presentation of properties, restaurants and other amenities. A distinction should be made between reviews and ratings: Reviews will generally include qualitative comments and descriptions, whilst ratings usually feature quantitative rankings, corresponding to degrees of user satisfaction. The ratings may be part of a review.

Sometimes, internet users may notice that there may be controversial reviews and unverified negative criticism.  In a similar vein, the tourism service providers may also claim that they were subject to unfounded negative ratings. Very often, businesses have been blackmailed by consumers, who have threatened them that they will write negative reviews unless their demands are not met. On the other hand, several consumers have also reported cases of unfounded positive ratings of services. Therefore, online users are increasingly paying more attention to these contentious issues.

Lately, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics has elaborated its recommendations for the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms. Their recommendations are addressed to three main groups of stakeholders, namely: online platforms (operators like TripAdvisor or Yelp) service providers (businesses that are listed on these platforms); and users (consumers).

Digital platforms that incorporate reviews and ratings for their products and services need to ensure the accuracy, reliability and credibility of their content. Online platforms should undertake all reasonable measures to ensure that the individual reviews reflect the real users’ opinions, findings and experiences. The provision of publicly available information through digital media involves a certain degree of trust. The veracity of the reviews is essential for their integrity, reputation and good functioning of the review platforms. Whilst it is not always easy to verify the authenticity of user generated content, the digital platform should have quality control mechanisms and processes to ensure that their reviews are clear, accurate and truthful, for the benefit of the service providers as well as prospective consumers.

Dr Mark Anthony Camilleri is the author of Springer’s ‘Travel Marketing, Tourism Economics and the Airline Product’

 

 

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Valuing Word-of-Mouth Publicity and Online Reviews

A very important function of public relations and publicity is to promote the corporate image and reputation of a business. The “image” is the total sum of impressions on the company. For instance, a casual act by an employee can appraise or damage the corporate image in the eyes of a single customer or caller on the phone. However, the major elements of corporate image include; the core business and financial performance of the company, the reputation and performance of its brands (i.e. brand equity); its reputation for innovation or technological process; policies toward employees; external relations with customers, shareholders, and the community, and; the perceived trends in the markets in which the business operates.

Public relations and publicity support other marketing tools, and could be seen as the backbone of the promotional mix. The success achieved by the other elements of the mix could easily be damaged or reduced by bad public relations or negative publicity, something which is undesirable to the businesses. Very often, the businesses cannot control the favourable or unfavourable messages about products or services that appear in online reviews. If for some reason, the business receives bad publicity, its role in this area moves to that of damage limitation. For example, many airlines and large hotel chains may have a section within their PR department to engage with online communities. This section will usually handle publicity issues, including negative reviews.

Recently, we are increasingly witnessing an surge in businesses’ engagement with online communities, including consumers. User-generated ratings and reviews provide relevant information on the business products and their levels of customer service. For instance, many prospective customers read reviews before choosing which places to visit, to stay or to eat. Very often the online ratings and reviews will have an effect on their consumer behaviours. It is likely that prospective customers will be mainly influenced by negative reviews, rather than by positive ones. Many studies indicate that individuals will read consumer reviews before shopping.

Presently, there are millions of online reviews that are related to travel and tourism. Digital platforms which provide travel-related content (are generated directly by users) concerning destinations, attractions and businesses. For instance, TripAdvisor provides travel related reviews and opinions on accommodation establishments, restaurants and attractions. In addition, many websites, which are traditionally known as booking engines, including; Booking.com, Airbnb.com, et cetera also provide reviews that are integrated in their presentation of properties, restaurants and other amenities. A distinction should be made between reviews and rating: Reviews will generally include qualitative comments and descriptions, whilst ratings usually feature quantitative rankings corresponding to degrees of user satisfaction. The ratings may be part of a review.

Sometimes internet users may noticce that there may be controversial reviews online.  Occasionally, the tourism service providers claim that they were subject to unfounded negative ratings. Moreover, many businesses may be blackmailed by consumers, as they threaten to write negative reviews unless their demands are not met. In a similar vein, consumers have also reported cases of unfounded positive ratings of services or unverified negative criticism. Online users are increasingly paying more attention to these contentious issues.

Recently, The World Committee on Tourism Ethics has elaborated its recommendations for the responsible use of ratings and reviews on digital platforms. Their recommendations are addressed to three main groups of stakeholders, namely: online platforms (operators like TripAdvisor or Yelp) service providers (businesses that are listed on these platforms); and users (consumers).

Digital platforms that incorporate reviews and ratings for their products and services need to ensure the accuracy, reliability and credibility of their content. Online platforms should undertake all reasonable measures to ensure that individual reviews reflect the real users’ opinions, findings and experiences. The provision of publicly available information though digital media involves a certain degree of trust, therefore the veracity of the reviews is essential for the integrity, reputation and good functioning of such platforms. Whilst it is not always easy to verify the authenticity of user generated content, the digital platform should have quality control mechanisms and processes to ensure that their reviews are clear, accurate and truthful, for the benefit of prospective consumers.

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Unleashing Corporate Social Responsibility Communication in the Digital Era

Part of this article has appeared in Camilleri, M.A. (2017) Corporate Sustainability, Social Responsibility and Environmental Management: An Introduction to Theory and Practice with Case Studies. Springer International. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319468488

The corporate communication is dynamic on digital media as the global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, electronic fora, webinars and social media networks have facilitated organisations, including businesses to attract prospects and consumer groups. The digital media could potentially speed up content marketing and increase direct interactions, dialogues and engagements with various audiences. Such interactive communications are often referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are usually perceived as highly trustworthy sources.

When organisations share information about their stakeholder relationships with online communities, they may find out that their followers (or friends) could also share their passion for laudable causes. Very often, there is a business case for corporate social responsibility as socially-driven enterprises and sustainable businesses could charge higher prices for their products or services, they may influence more people, and get more credibility, attention, customers; you name it. Therefore, they are encouraged to use digital media to stand out from the rest, reach out (to prospects, clients, followers, and experts), and engage (in networking and public relations events).

Online communication has potential to create a ripple effect that grows as it reaches wider audiences. Notwithstanding, social media has potential to empower users to engage with organisations on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR, sustainability, responsible management, responsible corporate governance, responsible procurement, philanthropic and stewardship credentials et cetera, in different markets and segments.

Due to their apparent lack of gatekeeping and their symmetric two-way communication, the digital media are suitable for undertaking a corporate-public dialogue. However, open platforms like social media can also increase the complexities of the debates as they decrease the level of institutionalisation of the interactions between organisations and their stakeholders.

The social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their external environment. These online networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. Therefore, digital media are helping business communicators and marketers to identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content (Some of the most popular hashtags in this regard, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions as well as green non-governmental organisations. They may also promote fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for organisations and businesses to leverage themselves through blogs and social networks as they engage with influencers and media. Modern tools like Scrivener make it easy to write and compile for formats including .mobi (Kindles) and .epub (iBooks). Guest blogging on respected industry websites is a great way to build reputation and authority, but also backlinks  are crucial for strong search engine optimisation. Moreover, regular contributions on blogs allow users to connect with others; by sharing ideas and opinions, they spread awareness on their promoted content. Businesses can make use of project management systems like Asana or Trello, or intranet tools like Interact or Podio to track the  effectiveness of their outreach campaigns. Their analytics tools could possibly reveal  which content had the biggest impact on the audiences.

Hence, social media is an unprecedented channel for connecting and sharing with millions around the planet (with an estimated 2.51 billion social media users worldwide in 2017). The ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. For instance, these networks have become popular tools that are used by millions of people to publish messages and to interact through conversations from their personal computers and mobile phones.

LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups.They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key socially responsible initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These platforms could so be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. For instance, businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. These networks provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain CSR issues.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube and Vimeo seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance,  webinars and videos featuring university resources may also comprise lectures, documentaries and case studies that could be created, distributed and shared online through Skillshare or Udemy.

The Internet and social media open platforms are shifting the power dynamics as they are putting forward the debates between business and society. Open platforms provide access to multiple stakeholders and facilitate two-way communication between participants. They increase the speed in communications as there are no gatekeeping mechanisms. Open platforms are therefore unique spaces in the emerging diversity and plurality of the sustainability agenda. Participants in social media can no longer be classified as formal, functional or institutionalised stakeholders (e.g., as customers or NGOs), Yet, they may be categorised in relation to their changing affinities with the specific issues under discussion.

In conclusion, despite the promise that digital media improves the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate communication between organisations and their publics,  the businesses’ implementation of online engagement is neither automatic nor easy. The dialogic features that are enabled by web pages, blogs, and other social media may not necessarily result in improved stakeholder relationships. The businesses may inevitably have to deal with legitimacy constraints as they manage online engagements in different contexts. At the same time, there are stakeholders, particularly customers who are  increasingly becoming more discerned about content marketing through digital media.

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Corporate Communication, Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility

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Companies are increasingly dedicating their time and resources to promote their public relations initiatives. Corporate Communication Managers and executives have a wide array of media channels at their disposal. These may  be used to communicate their corporate social responsibility CSR credentials. As a matter of fact, businesses are continuously being scrutinised by media, customers, monitoring groups, consumer forums and blogs (Du et al., 2010).

Very often, businesses disclose their CSR activities through official documents, such as annual corporate responsibility or sustainability reports, media releases, dedicated sections of their corporate websites; as well as in social media pages or groups. CSR communication is produced, translated, and integrated according to the companies’ contexts and their specific reality constructions (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Companies could use broadcast advertising, including TV and radio commercials. Businesses could also utilise print media (e.g. newspapers, magazines) to disseminate their message to their target audience. Newspaper articles reflect corporate ideas of social responsibilities and assumptions about public expectations, and react herewith to what they perceive as the public’s expectations (Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010). Alternatively, they may use outdoor advertisements such as billboards and signage on brick-and-mortar premises. These traditional media are based on a hierarchical one‐to‐many communication; with a clear distinction between producer and consumer of information. Notwithstanding, there are other communication channels that are not entirely controlled by the company. For this reason, businesses are encouraged to become more proficient in the use of digital media in addition to traditional media to increase their impact of their corporate communication.

Evidently, the internet has reshaped communication at different levels. It has enabled the emergence of a new participatory public sphere that is based on a many‐to‐many communication where everybody can dialogically and publicly interact and collaborate in the creation of content and the definition of the agenda (Colleoni, 2013; Jenkins, 2006). In a relatively short period of time, the internet has become an essential tool for organisational communication (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007a; Stuart & Jones, 2004).

Moreover, in today’s digital era, the engagement between the public and the organisation is one of the main characteristics of the internet (Colleoni, 2013). Many corporate websites already possess a high degree of interactivity; including their ability to disseminate information and to generate relationships between the different publics and the organisation (Capriotti & Moreno, 2007). In the first approach, the level of interactivity is low, and the use of the Internet is unidirectional; as its essential objective is to diffuse information and to try to improve the corporate image of the business. However, in the second approach, the degree of interactivity is high, and the Internet is used to facilitate bidirectional communication and to nurture relationships by allowing dialogue and interaction between the organisation and its stakeholders.

Interactive communication is becoming one of the most important information channels for corporations as it is changing social dynamics (Fieseler & Fleck, 2013; O`Reilly, 2005; 2006). Web-based co‐operation and data exchanges have empowered the communication between businesses and their stakeholders (Buhalis & Law, 2008; O´Riley, 2006, Fieseler et al., 2010). It enables them to engage with online users and to take advantage of positive publicity arising from word-of-mouth marketing and digital platforms. Corporations can maintain legitimacy better as they engage with stakeholders via social media; and take on the gate keeping function of traditional media (Fieseler et al. 2010). At the same time, there are protest actors; who have become more powerful online as they disrupt the corporations’ legitimacy by using social media (Castelló, Morsing & Schultz, 2013; Bennett 2003).

Societies are currently undergoing a fundamental transformation toward globally networked societies (Castelló, Morsing, & Schultz, 2013). Unsurprisingly, the public relations and corporate communications of business have benefited of social networking software (Etter, Morsing, and Castello, 2011; Pressley (2006). Of course, these technological advances also have consequences for CSR communication; as companies can reach out to stakeholders in a more interactive way. In a similar vein, the use of social networks have offered the businesses new forms of interactivity and enable them to address the CSR information toward a variety of stakeholders (Isenmann, 2006). A powerful stakeholder group, the consumers serve as an informal yet highly credible CSR communication channel. In particular, the power of consumer word-of-mouth has been greatly magnified given the popularity and vast reach of interactive communication.

Companies such as Stonyfield Farm and Ben & Jerry’s have been benefiting from consumer ambassadors who raved, in the virtual world, about their social responsibility endeavours. For example, one consumer wrote enthusiastically about Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan ice cream and its support for an educational foundation, ‘besides the great flavour that the Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan Ice Cream offers you, a portion of the proceeds go to the Tom Joyner Foundation . . . [that] provides financial support to students attending historically black colleges and universities’ (Associated Content 2008). Companies can be proactive in using social media to engage consumers to be their CSR advocates.

Timberland, a company that is known for its environmental stewardship, launched the Earthkeeper campaign in 2008 to recruit one million people to become part of an online network designed to inspire real environmental behaviour change. As part of the Earthkeeper programme, Timberland launched an innovative global network of online social networking tools, including a strong Facebook presence, a YouTube Earthkeeper Brand Channel and a richly populated Earthkeeper blog, as well as an Earthkeeper product collection which serves as the pinnacle expression of the company’s environmental commitment (CSRWire 2008). Through this campaign, Timberland not only effectively communicating its sustainability initiative, but also engaging consumers to spread the word about this initiative and, importantly, the company’s involvement in this initiative.

Fieseler et al. (2010) suggested that communication through social media is dynamic in relation to traditional media. The global diffusion of social software like blogs, RSS feed, wikis, electronic forum, social networks have facilitated companies to attract prospects and consumer groups. Social media have the technological potential to speed up communication processes (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010) and to increase direct interaction, dialogue and participation across organisations and various audiences (Colleoni 2013; Schultz et al. 2011). Such interactive communications are referred to as “viral” because ideas and opinions spread like epidemic diseases through the network via word‐of‐mouth and are perceived as highly trustworthy sources (Colleoni et al., 2011; Schultz and Wehmeier, 2010).

Accordingly, social media has transformed the communicative dynamics within and between corporations and their environment.  Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content16 (Some of the most popular hashtags comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This contribution suggests that corporate communications managers and executives are in a position to amplify the effectiveness of their company’s CSR communication efforts. They are expected to create relevant content and to engage with stakeholders through different marketing communications channels.

 

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Corporate Social Responsibility Communications through Digital Media

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Companies are increasingly focusing their attention on integrated marketing approaches toward different stakeholders24. Many of them are becoming knowledgeable in using social media channels to protect their reputation from bad publicity and misinformation. Their content strategists and inbound marketers who care about customers are realising that they have to continuously come up with fresh, engaging content with a growing number of quality links.

Businesses need to make sure that their corporate websites offer relevant content for different search engines. Consistent high quality content ought to be meaningful and purposeful for target audiences25. Consumers and other stakeholders expect informative yet interesting content through digital channels, including blogs, podcasts, social media networking and e-newsletters. Such content marketing approaches bring customer loyalty26, particularly if the businesses deliver ongoing value propositions to promising prospects on their website27. Very often, they offer insightful stories to customers28 or inspire them with sustainable ideas and innovations29. Corporate web sites could even contain the latest news, elements of the marketing-mix endeavours as well as digital marketing fads.

Social media networks are effective monitoring tools as they could feature early warning signals of trending topics30. These networks may help business communicators and marketers identify and follow the latest sustainability issues. Notwithstanding, CSR influencers are easily identified on particular subject matters or expertise. For example, businesses and customers alike have also learned how to use the hashtag (#) to enhance the visibility of their shareable content  (Some of the most popular hashtags on the subject, comprise: #CSR #StrategicCSR, #sustainability, #susty, #CSRTalk, #Davos2016, #KyotoProtocol, #SharedValue et cetera). Hashtags could be used to raise awareness on charities, philanthropic institutions and green non-governmental organisations. They may also help during fund raising events. Hence, there are numerous opportunities for businesses to leverage themselves through social networks as they engage with influencers and media.

The ubiquity of Facebook and Google Plus over the past years has made them familiar channels for many individuals around the globe. These networks have become very popular communication outlets for brands, companies and activists alike. These social media channels empower their users to engage with business on a myriad of issues. They also enable individual professionals or groups to promote themselves and their CSR credentials in different markets and segments.

Moreover, LinkedIn is yet another effective tool, particularly for personal branding. However, this social network helps users identify and engage with influencers. Companies can use this site to create or join their favourite groups on LinkedIn (e.g. GRI, FSG, Shared Value Initiative among others). They may also use this channel for CSR communication as they promote key initiatives and share sustainability ideas. Therefore, LinkedIn connects individuals and groups as they engage in conversations with both academia and CSR practitioners.

In addition, Pinterest and Instagram enable their users to share images, ideas with their networks. These social media could also be relevant in the context of the sustainability agenda. Businesses could illustrate their CSR communication to stakeholders through visual and graphic content. Evidently, these innovative avenues provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups who may be passionate on certain issues, including CSR.

Moreover, digital marketers are increasingly uploading short, fun videos which often turn viral on internet31. YouTube, Vimeo and Vine seem to have positioned themselves as important social media channels for many consumers, particularly among millennials. These sites offer an excellent way to humanise or animate CSR communication through video content. These digital media also allow their users to share their video content across multiple networks. For instance, videos featuring university resources may comprise lectures, documentaries, case studies and the like.

This is an excerpt from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299349607_Unlocking_Corporate_Social_Responsibility_Communication_through_Digital_Media

References

24. Camilleri, M.A. “Unleashing Shared Value Through Content Marketing.” Triple Pundit, 10th February 2014. http://www.triplepundit.com/2014/02/unleashing-shared-value-content-marketing/
25. Camilleri, M.A. “A Search Engine Optimization Strategy for Content Marketing Success.” Social Media Today 28th May, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/search-engine-optimization-strategy-content-marketing-success
26. Lindgreen, Adam. “The design, implementation and monitoring of a CRM programme: a case study.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning 22, no. 2 (2004): 160-186.
27. Andersen, Poul Houman. “Relationship marketing and brand involvement of professionals through web-enhanced brand communities: The case of Coloplast.” Industrial marketing management 34, no. 1 (2005): 39-51.
28. Pulizzi, Joe. “The rise of storytelling as the new marketing.” Publishing research quarterly 28, no. 2 (2012): 116-123.
29. Lozano, Rodrigo, Francisco J. Lozano, Karel Mulder, Donald Huisingh, and Tom Waas. “Advancing higher education for sustainable development: international insights and critical reflections.” Journal of Cleaner Production 48 (2013): 3-9.
30. Small, Tamara A. “What the hashtag? A content analysis of Canadian politics on Twitter.” Information, Communication & Society 14, no. 6 (2011): 872-895.

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