Students pitch social media campaign to hotel executives

Hospitality Management students pitch a social media marketing campaign to hotel executives as the culmination of a semester-long project. Credit: Kevin Sliman / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Hospitality management students had a rare opportunity to pitch a social media marketing campaign to hotel executives as the culmination of a semester-long project.

Students enrolled in the new course Social Media Marketing for Hospitality Travel Professionals, instructed by Brian Cliette, presented a social media marketing campaign to three executives with Shaner Hotel Group, a State College-based company that owns and operates more than 40 hotels across the United States.

Over the course of an hour, students highlighted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest as pathways for Shaner Hotel Group’s Toftrees Golf Resort and Conference Center to engage with current and potential customers.

Specifically, students demonstrated how Shaner Hotel Group could utilize author Gary Vaynerchuk’s “jab, jab, jab, right hook” approach by building relationships with their audience through a pattern of quality engagement and dialogue before making a direct sales pitch. Students also reviewed the importance of incorporating “hashtags” and high-quality photographs with a company logo integrated.

Student Dylan Singleton said the opportunity to present a real world social media marketing plan to Shaner Hotel Group was an important and unique experience.

“The whole class was building up to today,” Singleton said. “Everything we did in 14 weeks was for today. It was real world experience for real executives at a real company. Through the process we earned online certifications and boosted our résumés with real experiences.”

Plato Ghinos, president of Shaner Hotel Group and member of the school’s Industry Advisory Board, understands the importance of social media in the hospitality industry. In fact, the Industry Advisory Board was instrumental in bringing Cliette to Penn State to instruct social media marketing courses for hospitality management students.

“This is one area I think no other school even comes close to covering,” Ghinos told students. “This class is really progressive and very forward looking.”

Robert Spraker, vice president of marketing for Shaner Hotel Group, told the class that just in the time students have been attending Penn State there have been more changes to how hotels market themselves than in any other time period – shifting attention from traditional print media to more interactive social media platforms in which customer comments provide more direct engagement.

“Social media has changed the game completely,” Spraker said. “If we’re not true to our message – and the image we portray on our website – we’re going to get raked over the coals through customer feedback and reviews.”

David Kopac, e-commerce manager for Shaner Hotel Group, said it is important for students entering the hospitality industry to have a solid understanding of social media marketing and public relations.

“I was excited to hear about the addition of this course at Penn State School of Hospitality Management,” Kopac said. “We need to focus more on social media because of how much it affects hospitality. It’s encouraging to see what the young minds will bring to us moving forward.”

Students also had an opportunity to submit pre-recorded questions to Dan Andrews’ "Tropical MBA Podcast," which is dedicated to the growing movement of location independent entrepreneurs. Andrews incorporated the questions into an April 23 Podcast

“The significance of the class over all was to change students from the passive consumer of social media technologies, removing them from the metaphorical public bus of social media consumption and to hand them the keys and really put them into the driver’s seat as a social media content curator and creator,” Cliette said.

Plato Ghinos, president of Shaner Hotel Group, and instructor Brian Cliette listen as students pitch social media marketing campaign. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated May 08, 2015