Stay Smart: A RACE Analysis

During the entire life cycle of any given campaign, public relations professionals make use of the RACE formula, which stands for Research, Action, Communication, and Evaluation, in order to ensure success from the beginning. Since the public relations process is cyclical, the final evaluation stage is used to examine the campaign as a whole in order to determine both its successes and failures in terms of future implementation.stay-smart

To understand this concept more fully, this post will examine how the RACE formula would have been employed by the public relations team at the Holiday Inn Express when they decided to re-launch their hugely successful “Stay Smart” campaign earlier this year. According to PR Newswire, the original campaign that launched in 1998 “was on-air for 11 years, and became one of the longest-running hotel advertising campaigns in television history, exceeding industry norms.” You may remember the campaign by its now famous ending line: “But I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.”

This long run-time is no small feat, and the public relations team at the Holiday Inn Express obviously understood how best to reach their target audience both with the original campaign, as well as with its re-launch. This was achieved by researching both demographics and psychographics of people most likely to use their brand. According to information released by Jenifer Zeigler, senior vice president of Holiday Inn Express’s brand management department, these consist primarily of men between the ages of 35 to 54 with an average household income of $80,000 who drive from location to location and generally tend to only stay a single night at the hotel.

In terms of psychographics, Zeigler uses the term “pragmatic road warriors” to describe them. These are individuals who are “interested in an efficient stay experience in which they maintain control.” As well, they “do not appreciate add on fees or paying for things they don’t need.” Finally, “they recognize the stay is clean and comfortable for a reasonable price.”

What was the Holiday Inn Express’s response to all this research? The re-launch of Stay Smart, which “offers pragmatic, honest value so our guests feel smarter for choosing the brand.”


In order for them to put the new campaign into action, Holiday Inn Express would have had to first establish an operating budget, which, according to an article in USA Today, came in at $20 million. This would include all costs associated with actually filming the videos used in the campaign, such as hiring actors, studio time, post-production, etc., the cost of billboards, as well as any written publicity materials used. Further action items would include creating a shooting schedule for the videos, establishing timelines and deadlines for execution prior to launch, to name a few.

“Communication” is the actual launch of the campaign. In the case of the Stay Smart re-launch, the Holiday Inn Express had the advantage of social media, which was non-existent when the original campaign was created in 1998. This time, the Holiday Inn Express had the added benefit of being able to broadcast the ads using YouTube, as well as advertising them via their Twitter account, in addition to traditional media. The ad was also very well-positioned in order to reach its target audience by airing during shows like Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.

The above video has close to 2 million views, which speaks volumes for the overall success of the campaign to date. Counting YouTube views is an effective evaluation tool, as is measuring either the increase or decrease of visitors to the hotels after the launch of the campaign and comparing the figures to those prior.

Considering the new Stay Smart campaign is still in its infancy, the public relations team at the Holiday Inn Express will need to periodically re-evaluate its overall success to determine whether they need to make any modifications to it during its ultimate lifecycle.

By combining research, action, communication, and evaluation, public relations professionals are able to create and execute an effective campaign for their clients. The Stay Smart campaign is a shining example of the RACE formula put into practice.

If you were to evaluate its effectiveness, what tools would you use to measure the successes and failures of the Stay Smart campaign? Let us know with a comment!

Marc Viau


Hotels and online reviews: an overview of good practice


Being engaged with an audience on social media, and particularly on review websites, can be a winning public relations strategy for a company, but doing it properly can make the difference between gaining public support and ruining a company’s reputation. This is especially true when hotels respond to customer reviews online. Josiah Mackenzie, an author at, has even published A Hotel’s Guide to Responding to Online Guest Reviews. In it, he lists a few basic tips for hotels to keep in mind when replying to customer feedback:


  • Thank the reviewer for the feedback
  • Respond to any positive comments
  • Apologize for any legitimate negative experience
  • Explain the steps you’ll take to prevent that from happening again
  • Allow the guest to contact you offline if follow‐up discussion is needed


  • Take it personally. Avoid angry, abusive responses—or any type of personal attack
  • Question the reviewer’s legitimacy.
  • Reply with a discount or coupon
  • Use corporate‐speak that contains no meaningful information

In fact, knowing how to properly respond to online reviews (along with the obvious exceptional guest service, location, and overall room cleanliness) can earn a hotel a coveted TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award. recently published a case study that examines how some hotels put these and similar tips into practice in order to keep their clients satisfied and coming back.

For example, one guest who stayed at the Grand Del Mar in San Diego, California, took to TripAdvisor and wrote they were:

“Very disappointed in the service, food quality and experience overall. In fact the only reason I didn’t give it only 1 star is because I visited on Memorial Day weekend so I am trying to cut them some slack. Don’t bother eating anything from one of their hotel restaurants. Beyond bad, although I should mention that the Addison restaurant which is on their grounds was closed so I am not talking that place in particular.”

The hotel responded and apologized in a very professional manner:

“Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable review. The experiences you described are not characteristic of the level of service our colleagues strive to provide, and we apologize your stay was unsatisfactory. Your feedback was shared with our team, and we look forward to the opportunity to welcome you back and exceed your expectations.”

The hotel addressed the issue the guest raised in their review, and relayed their feedback to those concerned in an attempt to make things right.This type of practice earned the Grand Del Mar a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award in 2012, and is an excellent example of great public relations.

On the flipside, hotels also need to know how to respond to positive feedback in order to further increase their reputation. also published a second case study about The Landmark London, a luxury hotel in London, England, and how they deal with both positive and negative reviews.

One guest who stayed at the hotel while attending the 2012 Summer Olympics wrote on TripAdvisor: “The service and staff could not have been more accommodating, especially the concierge. The location was excellent. Close to the tube and walking distance to Baker Street, Bond Street and The Marble Arch area. Have stayed at other 5 star hotels in London and would stay at The Landmark again.”

The hotel manager at The Landmark replied: “Thank you for selecting The Landmark during the London 2012 Olympics and we were delighted to read you enjoyed our location. It was very pleasing to read your comments, particularly, concerning our concierge team and we hope you enjoyed a very memorable time in London. It will be our pleasure to welcome you back.”

This kind of personal touch (addressing a specific compliment left by the reviewer) would make any guest feel welcome, and would keep them coming back. It also has the added benefit of solidifying a hotel’s positive image, and in the case of The Landmark, it earned them a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2012 in the luxury hotels category.

As we can see, hotels that make use of the public relations strategy of addressing online reviews in a positive, constructive, and professional manner can have tremendous benefits for them. Keeping guests happy and coming back, and sharing their experiences can certainly help a hotel keep their image and reputation worthy of a guest’s stay.

Have you ever had either a positive or negative experience at a hotel and written a review online about it? What did the hotel say or do about it? Leave a comment on this post. We’d love to hear your story.

Marc Viau