Joining the panel for the evening chaired by Henry Hemming, Managing Director of TravMedia UK; were Times travel writer Tom Chesshyre; Frank Barrett, Travel Editor, Mail on Sunday; Adam Raphael, Editor of the Good Hotel Guide; David Collyer, Director of Marketing UK & Ireland InterContinental Hotels Group and Dean Harvey, Digital Development Director at Designate.

The panelists debated the future of PR in the digital age and how the PR industry is adapting to a new way of working in the current world of instant communication, via Twitter, blogs and YouTube, among other channels.

Dean Harvey of Designate said: “I think PR is sleeping and it needs to adapt and evolve.” He said that people were relying less on brands and more on peer recommendations and that brands needed help to become publishers and release content that was useful relevant and interesting.

Times travel writer Tom Chesshyre said: “Is PR dead? Definitely not in my opinion.” He then gave the audience a series of tips on how to engage more successfully with journalists on Twitter. “It is all about scratching everyone’s back, quote journalists in your tweets and don’t forget that Twitter is meant to be fun when you are deciding on your messages,” he added.

David Collyer, Director of Marketing UK & Ireland at IHG said: “I think the PR industry is safe but you need to be multi disciplined.” In his opinion there was room for digital PR as well as the more traditional methods of PR such as soliciting hotel reviews. “When we receive a positive review in print or online media we see a significant spike in bookings,” he said. Collyer added that he was also a strong believer in the traditional PR agency set up of account director, manager and executive, as the way forward. “You need this set-up to function successfully,” he added.

Adam Raphael of the Good Hotel Guide was critical of online review sites such as TripAdvisor and said that their dominance was “far from being healthy in the industry”. He argued that there was still a strong case for an independently edited guide and that the Good Hotel Guide had a ‘squeaky-clean’ reputation to live up to.

Mail on Sunday’s Frank Barrett countered by saying that online travel review websites summed up the best and the worse in the industry and definitely had a role to play. He lamented that whilst the internet had completely changed his way of working as a journalist he regretted that it had made working practices so solitary. “Nowadays we probably receive about five letters and four phone calls in the office, whereas I receive 400 emails a day, ” he said. “I regret that so much time is spent looking at the computer and emails and I carry my phone all the time.”

In a question from the audience the journalists on the panel were asked if they would also need to reinvent themselves to adapt to a new way of working in the digital age.

Tom Chessyhre said it was becoming more frenetic and a less enticing time to be working as a journalist. “We are being asked to do so many different things,” he said.

While Frank Barrett said that people still wanted to read newspapers. “We shouldn’t give up the fight too easily and I certainly hope newspapers will still be around in 20 years time,” he said.

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*For the full survey results click on the HMA Blog

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