Total campaign budget: under $20,000. Passport Resorts LLC is Post Ranch Inn’s internal management and marketing team and so all of the marketing and PR efforts were developed and created in-house without much traditional outsourcing. Due to this, the overall expenses for this integrated marketing campaign were very minimal. Crisis Challenge & Program Description: Post Ranch Inn is an environmentally sustainable resort set on the cliffs of Big Sur, Calif. and is recognized as one of the top luxury resorts in the country. In February 2017, the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, located about two miles north of Post Ranch Inn along Highway 1, was closed by Caltrans officials due to structural damage caused by a combination of severe winter storms and summer forest fires. To the south of Post Ranch Inn, Highway 1 experienced landslides in three separate locations along the iconic highway. Due to the slides to the south and the bridge closure to the north, Highway 1 leading to Post Ranch Inn from both the north and south closed beginning February 16, 2017. These closures left Post Ranch Inn inaccessible to vehicle traffic and the resort was forced to close to the public for roughly two months. During this two-month period, Passport Resorts devised a creative solution to combat the closure of Highway 1 in order to reopen the resort to the public, retain its dedicated employees and bring visitors in to support the local Big Sur businesses and the community. The Solution: An exhilarating coastal escape through the skies by helicopter from Monterey. There were many complex technical and operational challenges Passport Resorts needed to overcome in the process of operating a resort using helicopter transportation as the only option to access the property. Aside from the operational challenges, Passport had one chance to launch an integrated marketing campaign, involving website redevelopment, strategic PR, social media, a crisis communication plan, video creation, consumer e-blasts and advertising, with the primary goals of securing room reservations and keeping staff employed. Additionally, considering that the customary arrival to Post Ranch is a drive along the iconic, picturesque Highway 1, prospective guests had to be convinced of an alternative and even more extraordinary sense of arrival via helicopter. Objectives: The primary goal of this helicopter campaign was to reopen the resort to overnight guests, secure room reservations and keep staff employed. Post Ranch Inn also needed to convince prospective guests and the general public (through public relations) that arriving to the resort via helicopter above Highway 1 was an even more extraordinary experience as the drive along Highway 1, as well as being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Big Sur Coast from the air. Tactics: The first step was to determine logistics of operating a luxury resort by helicopter and incorporate changes internally with the staff and management team at the property. Then, Post Ranch Inn devised a strategic marketing plan to launch the reopening to the public and guests. The marketing plan included a) video creation b) website redevelopment c) e-blasts d) print advertising e) social media, and f) PR outreach to a targeted media list, all using key messaging to accurately reflect the new helicopter experience as being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the California Coast from the air, since ground access was prohibited due to the closure of Highway 1. Passport developed clear and concise messages to use across PR, marketing, and sales team efforts internally and externally. Passport developed a package called, “Escape Through the Skies,” to launch the helicopter experience along with the creation of a video to provide a compelling visual story. The messaging included the following: “Experience a once-in-a-lifetime roundtrip helicopter journey from Monterey to Post Ranch Inn with our ‘Escape Through the Skies’ package. Your journey begins at Monterey’s Del Monte Aviation with a Champagne welcome, followed by a spectacular twenty-minute helicopter ride along the Big Sur coast before landing directly at Post Ranch, where you’ll be whisked away to your guestroom and an unforgettable stay full of romance, relaxation and rejuvenation.” The launch phase of the Escape Through the Skies helicopter campaign began in Mid-April 2017 and continued through October 13, 2017 when Caltrans construction crews successfully reopened Highway 1 from the north to vehicle traffic from Monterey/Carmel. Public Relations: Due to the effects of the closure of Highway 1 on the Big Sur community, including businesses, Passport angled the package launch with the overall message of hope: “Big Sur Rebuilds and Begins to Reopen.” Using the designated messaging and visuals, Passport began the media campaign and reached out to leading print and online media outlets covering travel, affluent lifestyle, and general consumer news. After news of the Mud Creek landslide along Highway 1 went viral nationally as the largest landslide in state history, Passport reached out to local, regional and national media covering the news to secure coverage of Post Ranch Inn’s helicopter service, including New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NBC, CNN, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Mercury News, Travel + Leisure, among many others. Marketing: Passport launched a series of initiatives for delivery of the messaging and video content, including website redevelopment, e-blasts, digital campaigns, social media, video-embedded media releases, and separately, print ads that would ultimately promote in excess of 2000 helicopter flights over a 7-month road closure period. Campaign Results: • Media: As a result of strategic media outreach and intentional messaging, Post Ranch Inn’s creative helicopter package launch received widespread attention despite the tight window to launch, generating a total print circulation and online unique monthly visitation of 993,480,110 and a total article count of 162. The resort was covered extensively by top national, regional, and local media such as: The Los Angeles Times, CNN, NBC, New York Times, The Mercury News, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Bloomberg Pursuits, and San Francisco Chronicle, among others. *A full coverage list is uploaded to this award submission* • Employee Retention: Post Ranch was able to keep approx. 150 local staff members fully employed (120 of whom lived on property and were also isolated by the Hwy 1 closure). • Room Reservations: For a property with just 39 rooms and three luxury guest houses, the campaign delivered remarkable results, generating in excess of 3,600 room nights and over $5.7 million in room revenues, with an additional $1.8 million in food and beverage, spa and retail. • Social Media: The Escape Through the Skies social media campaign on just the hotel’s Facebook page garnered almost 80,000 video views and over 800 shares within the first week of the campaign launch. • Guest Satisfaction: Having defined a completely new sense of guest arrival, the helicopter experience delivered rave guest comments and reviews through hotel surveys, social media and travel outlets, representative of such examples as: - “Taking a helicopter into Big Sur was one of the coolest experience of my life.” BGreene, Trail4Runner.com - “Stop everything, clear your schedule and fly to Post Ranch now…” globetrotterpro, TripAdvisor - “… the flight over the iconic coast will take your breath away…” John M, TripAdvisor In summary, the program has become the single most successful integrated marketing campaign in the hotel’s 25-year history. The new Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was reopened by Caltrans for vehicle traffic from Monterey/Carmel on October 13, at which time the campaign that launched over 2000 helicopter flights came to a conclusion after a 7-month closure of Highway 1.
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