Travelodge PR Team Scores Nice Hit with Quirky Survey

by Affect Team on July 29, 2008

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The next time a client asks why you’re recommending they conduct a survey to generate PR, send them to this New Yorker piece on Coldplay. The article begins:

In a 2005 piece in the Times, Jon Pareles called the British rock group Coldplay “the most insufferable band of the decade,” and he placed the blame on the band’s front man and singer, Chris Martin, whom he called a “passive-aggressive blowhard.” Earlier this year, in a study sponsored by the hotel chain Travelodge of the bedtime habits of 2,248 people in the U.K., Coldplay topped a poll of music choices that would help people fall asleep. Coldplay apparently relieves what Travelodge called the “pressures of modern living.”

new-travelodge-logo.jpgThat’s right. Travelodge (in this case, Travelodge UK), the low-priced hotel chain trying to shed its crusty image, just got a hit in The New Yorker by surveying its customers on what music they listen to for a good night’s sleep. The accompanying press release, NOTES FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP: THE A TO ZZZZZZZZZ, notes that the music of James Blunt, Snow Patrol, Take That and Norah Jones also beats counting sheep.

Why This is Awesome
1. It proves what PR pros have always said: surveys have legs! The survey results were announced in April, and this is an August issue. And when a survey has its own legs, that means less legwork for you, the PR practitioner, because…

2. It proves that putting survey results out as press releases works! Unless someone at Travelodge PR pitched Mr. Frere-Jones (highly unlikely), it appears that big-time journalists actually do subscribe to Google Alerts and read press releases distributed by wire services. NME and Contact Music also picked up the announcement, so it’s equally likely that Mr. F-J read it on one of these music sites.

3. It proves that the surveys that succeed are the ones that aren’t always 100% “on message.” I can hear the naysayers in the conference room now — But we aren’t a music company. We’re doing PR for Travelodge, not Coldplay. Shouldn’t we ask customers how many fresh towels they expect upon arriving in a hotel room instead?

Props to the Travelodge UK PR team for fighting the good fight and providing an excellent case study on the PR power of surveys.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Ng 07.30.08 at 7:44 am
Leslie 07.30.08 at 12:08 pm

Mark, I just read your blog post. WOW. That’s terrible, a definite “PR Fail,” as you say.

In my personal experience, if you are dogged enough with customer service, you will eventually get what you want (and maybe even more than you want). When you get your refund from Travelodge, please pop back over and let us know.

Mark Ng 07.30.08 at 12:18 pm

Thanks Leslie,

I think I may now just resort to a chargeback on my card and eating the (admittedly fairly small) extra cost of the other hotel room and making sure that I never use travelodge again. It isn’t the fact that I was overbooked (though given that travelodge take my money even if I don’t turn up, overbooking seems unfair) but all the other cockups surrounding the way they dealt with the overbooking that really got up my nose.

Leslie 07.30.08 at 12:28 pm

That seems like a fair compromise. I don’t know how pervasive the Travelodge chain is in the UK, but it would not be difficult to avoid them in the US. I do hope someone — maybe even a PR person — gets back to you on this, regardless.

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