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