Much has been said about how this year has been one of division, from politics to quarantine borders, to differences in opinion with regards to how to survive the pandemic. So it was very much a sliver of a silver lining to the travel industry when the news broke that top PR and sales company Mason Rose was partnering with leading creative agency Studio Black Tomato.
Adam Larter, co-head at Studio Black Tomato, explained: “This was something we have been discussing for a while. Both companies have known each other for years and worked together previously. The fully realised partnership came from working together on some thought leadership and the positive responses we received from our community by sharing our expertise.”
Mason Rose MD Maria Pajares added: “Yes, as Adam says it was a logical next step in our relationship together and now, we can truly offer the industry a fully comprehensive communications service spanning brand, content creation and design strategies and solutions.”
The team talks about their shared values; community, long-term thinking, and positivity, and how this synergy allows them to lean on each other’s expertise in order to better serve their clients and the wider industry. Tanya Rose, CEO and founder of Mason Rose, said: “Historically, PR has been known for being about getting press coverage for your clients through media liaison and storytelling. There’s been so much change to the media landscape and this, coupled with how consumers interact with brands, has had a profound effect on how we endeavour to ensure our clients’ voice is heard amongst this cacophony of information overload.”
Luxury travel writer Ina Yulo Stuve speaks to Adam, Maria and Tanya on their new partnership and where they think the travel industry is headed in the new year.
What do you think makes today’s marketing landscape so different from what we saw five years ago?
Adam Larter: The demands of most marketers now are so great because they must be aware of so many different disciplines and juggle so many suppliers. It’s now expected that a small team will have to understand all facets of digital marketing, from SEO to PPC, they will need to understand a brand’s sustainability policy, their equality, diversity and inclusion policies, as well as having to manage both in-house creative teams and external agencies.
These are all good things, but in most cases the requirements of a marketing team have grown, but the budgets and resources haven’t. On top of this, production is much more accessible, either with illustrators, designers or film production, all available for a marketing team directly.
The effects of this are that most agencies must prove their value more, either with a specialism or an adjustment to their rates. We are proud of our specialisms; we know that we are in a competitive and busy environment and knowing the luxury travel and hospitality world in the way that we do means a big deal to our client base.
Tanya Rose: Totally agree. Digital media and influencers have probably been the biggest influence on [the changing media landscape]. With the evolution of social media channels, everyone has the ability to be a critic and influence the rise and fall of a business, online equivalents of print titles have been racing to commercialise their digital channels and our attention is shortening. It’s certainly fun though keeping on top of it all and our MO is to ensure a bespoke menu of communications strategies spanning the whole of the brand communications mix.
What is the unique advantage you believe you can offer your clients with this partnership?
Adam: There is no one thing we do that is unique to us, but when you combine the industry-specific expertise with the 360-marketing offering, there is no one else in the marketplace who can offer that. Not only do we have, between us, hundreds of years of experience in the travel and hospitality sector, but we also have access to insight from the Black Tomato Group and all of Mason Rose’s incredible connections and expertise.
Because of the recent lockdown, digital has been more important than ever. How have Mason Rose and Studio Black Tomato leveraged this space in engaging with customers and the wider ecosystem?
Adam: We are using different platforms, but it hasn’t greatly changed how we engage customers. As mentioned earlier, we believe in the power of community, in staying in touch, in conversation. Perhaps we are on video calls more, but we would have always been in touch regardless. Good service is about staying in touch because you should, not because you can.
Maria Pajares: Expanding on Adam’s point further, if anything, we’re even more attuned to our audience’s personal home life than ever before and that has deepened relationships even further. On the media side, digital content has escalated rapidly to keep up with consumer’s consumption and the changing news as the situation evolves. Deadlines are incredibly short and it’s the mark of a solid team and clients who can turn things around quickly to match the demand for information.
With the recent shake-up to the industry, what are the biggest challenges your clients are turning to you for and how are you supporting them with this?
Adam: Each client’s challenge is unique. We don’t have one specific challenge that we see repeating. Some clients are talking to us about advertising, others are using this moment in time to rebrand, some want more tactical communications and content. One thing that does seem to be a bit of a thread is the need to stand out.
The problem with a lot of post-covid communications in our industry is that brands can forget what makes them unique. [Because they] are very keen to communicate how they are adapting; they are forgetting what made them special. What we enjoy doing is guiding our clients to differentiate their messaging, what is inspiring, versus what is educational.
Tanya: It’s a myriad of things really, as Adam says. Everyone’s looking to build business and keep visible; we’re lucky we have international arms to the business so if the Brits can’t travel to a certain location, we’re able to pivot to a different marketplace where they can leverage opportunities as much as possible. Being nimble, adaptable, and in regular communication with our clients and team have benefited us immeasurably.
Do you have any travel trend predictions for 2021?
Adam: There are people who will give you expert guidance on which destinations, what types of travel and which brands will do well in 2021, but I predict 2021 is the year where people fall in love with travel again. It’s where people take long, amazing trips that they appreciate more than anything and they really appreciate the people they take them with. So perhaps, travel that allows you to spend time with family you haven’t seen, travel that allows conversation.
Tanya: We could also see people returning to places they know and love, rediscovering it as if for the first time. In the same vein, as what Adam said, travelling better, more mindfully if you will. Making travel choices that have a positive impact on not only their own memories and life enhancement but also on those communities and businesses that rely on travellers too.
Maria: I think we’ve also seen how much we can all work from home so I wouldn’t be surprised if we now ‘work from anywhere’ or digital nomadism really takes off in 2021.
Studio Black Tomato