The packed programme of seminars, talks and panel discussions at this year’s Independent Hotel Show once again shared creative thinking, dynamic approaches, the latest trends and industry issues with audiences of independent boutique hoteliers and premium suppliers. Topics from marketing support and recruitment, to Brexit and AI, as well as design and technology trends were covered. I was lucky enough to participate in a panel discussion called ‘Getting it out there’, a sequel to the previous panel titled ‘Creating a unique proposition’. The discussion, chaired by Emily Newman, covered influencer marketing, press tactics and local initiatives from branding and PR perspectives. Manfred Abraham of BrandCap highlighted the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to working with influencers and to maintain a well-researched and targeted approach to gaining the right exposure online. He also spoke about the need for a brand to create ownable experiences so that guests can emotionally connect with and recall the brand. Beth Taubner of MercuryLab emphasised excavation to the core of a brand to clearly identify the attributes, and also educating the employees about the brand culture so that the brand values can be communicated effectively externally. I agreed with Beth – staff are in many ways ambassadors of the brand and without their commitment, the brand becomes weak. PR (my focus during the discussion) is partly about creating stories, and in the same way that a guest will remember a unique experience at a hotel or in a destination (as Manfred pointed out) the media like to write about original, unusual, never-been-done-before experiences because they fuel content for interesting stories. In creating a brand, you are creating stories that resonate with people, stories for people to talk about and get excited about, and stories that in turn generate revenue. How a brand chooses to communicate the brand stories and messages depends on careful research into what the target market responds to the most. A brand may choose press trip reviews in print media, advertorials, online coverage with niche bloggers, sponsorship at events, competitions, reader offers or developing the profiles of employees that have unique areas of expertise. What we hoped the audience would take away from the discussion was an understanding of how important it is to get the core messaging right and to know the audience and what makes them tick.