Lauren Gumport, Director of Global Communications and Brand Strategy at Guesty, is one of the best strategic communicators in the business. Over the course of the pandemic, Lauren and her team have kept both the industry and press informed with data to make sense of uncertain booking trends. Her team also oversees the co-marketing initiatives of the Guesty Marketplace and content of the regular online virtual meetups and events. Through all of this – Lauren decided that rather than just work from home during the last few months, that she would work from many homes. So she packed up, went travelling (of course staying in rentals) and worked/visited 19 different cities over the last three months. An inspiring feat in anyone’s book. We asked Lauren to tell us more about balancing adventure with work, the strategy behind Guesty’s approach to providing insight and what she thinks about when planning a campaign.
PillowTalk Media: As Director of Global Communications & Brand Strategy, you oversee all of Guesty’s comms activity. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic your team has taken a leading role in providing the industry and media with insight on current market trends and potential future travel predictions. Can you expand on why you’ve taken this approach and how you have used unique data to support the industry?
Lauren Gumport: I remember early on in the pandemic looking at the numbers and having a discussion about not being afraid to share data that isn’t positive all of the time. As a company at the epicenter of the short-term rental ecosystem, with direct integrations to major OTAs that our users list their properties on, we came to the conclusion that it was a must to share these informative stats and be a source of insights that can help this community make informed business decisions, maintain stability and ultimately achieve longevity.
We decided to share our data across a multitude of channels so it was as visible as possible. This has included a COVID-19 Infocenter that we launched in the Spring, weekly free virtual events and stories via the press, in widely read outlets like Financial Times, CNBC and Forbes.
Of course, the numbers change rapidly which is why we pull them every couple of weeks. In doing so, we have noticed some unique trends between March and today. This includes travellers increasingly booking last-minute stays. Specifically, this Fall 14% of bookings were made on the same day and the majority of bookings, 32%, were made within 1-7 days of the booking itself; 30% of bookings were made 8-30 days in advance of the reservation itself. So though today we are seeing lower reservation volume worldwide for Christmas and New Year’s Eve compared to this time last year, property management companies and professional hosts should rest assured that a surge of bookings will likely flow in over the next few weeks.
Looking towards 2021, we are filled with optimism, especially with the boost in consumer travel confidence we noticed in the week directly following Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccine news. In those seven days we saw:
-An uplift of 6% in Q1 2021 short-term rental reservations across the globe
-A 3% uplift in reservation volume created within one week, globally, compared to the average weekly reservation volume in 2020
-A 7% uplift in reservation volume created within one week, in the US, compared to average weekly reservation volume in 2020
Overall, when it has come to communications during this unique time period (especially early on in the pandemic), we came to the conclusion that empathy is the new currency. Knowing when to pump the breaks on selling yourself and focus on the needs of the greater community has been of the utmost importance.
PTM: When planning your communications campaigns, what are the three most important factors that you consider in order to be successful and be able to reach your audiences?
Lauren Gumport: Before any communication campaign, I ask myself the following 3 questions:
-Is this newsworthy – meaning, is this something people will truly care about?
-Is this timely? Does it align with current events and happenings?
-Do we have data to strengthen this storyline?
If the answer is yes to all 3, then I know it’s a strong narrative. We then evaluate how we can distribute the message. If it’s a full-blown marketing campaign, usually we utilize email marketing, social media, our blog, paid campaigns and of course, press.
With press, it’s key to understand if this is a national story (for example, funding news that the wider tech community would be interested in) or more of a local one (such as a user’s success story that a local paper would pick up). From there, you can identify the appropriate reporters to build relationships with and ultimately (hopefully) achieve press hits.
PTM: Guesty was recently short-listed for the 2020 Skift IDEA Awards for the Guesty Marketplace and the resources you provide for property managers, especially in light of the global pandemic. You often collaborate with partners in order to provide insight. What’s your approach to these sorts of collaborations and what are the essential elements that make them work?
Lauren Gumport: Our Marketplace partners share our vision of making property management easier and as such, we weave them into several of our Marketing initiatives as we truly believe that the Guesty community, and short-term rental community as a whole for that matter, can benefit from these integrations.
Prior to bringing our partners into the fold on a comarketing initiative, our team determines the topics we’d like to address based on current happenings and then we evaluate which partners would be the best fit for that narrative. These co-marketing collaborations come to life in a variety of ways on our owned marketing channels – such as guides, guest blog posts and virtual events.
For example, next week we will be sharing exclusive holiday discounts that many of our Marketplace partners crafted specially for the Guesty community across a variety of verticals: Marketing, Branding & Design, Revenue Management, Safety & Security and more. Promotions include discounts on tech solutions and free trials. Partners participating include Authost, Fülhaus, TeliportMe, PriceLabs and more.
We are all really proud of how the Guesty Marketplace has grown in the last couple of years. Marketing-wise, it’s incredibly fun to partner on campaigns like the aforementioned and have more members of the extended Guesty family be involved.
PillowTalk Media: Over the last few months, you yourself have lived the ‘digital nomad’ dream and have been working, travelling and staying in rentals for the last 3-months across Montana, Wyoming, California, Mexico and Greece. How have you balanced managing both yourself and your team during this time and what have learned from the experience?
Lauren Gumport: In order to successfully be a digital nomad, work remotely and still get a taste of the destinations you are staying in, you must have excellent time management skills and be hyper-organized. In a couple of months I hit 19 cities with my best friend for a bit of revenge travel – here are my tips:
1. Plan last minute – spontaneity is in
2. Stay in private rentals to avoid crowds
3. Good WIFI and a comfortable work from home setup is key (good lighting is a must!)
4. Time your trip with weather that suits outdoor activities
5. Plan around your work schedule and practice excellent time management – make the most of weekends, lunch breaks, early mornings and evenings
6. Don’t stress – everything will go wrong, but that’s part of the fun
7. Use the passport(s) you have to get you where you need to go
8. Set aside regular time outside of your work hours to practice health and wellness – whether that be running, yoga or meditation – it gives you a sense of routine
9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – make sure there is strong WIFI (one Airbnb let me know their connection was a “solid B” so we had to cancel and book another to ensure we had A+ connectivity)
Based on my experience, I am convinced that you can safely travel and work amid COVID-19. Though it might be trickier to plan and perhaps your experiences look different than you had envisioned, they can still be special and memorable.
Because the majority of my team was hours ahead of me time-zone wise, I made an effort to start quite early in the morning in order to catch them during their work day, and actively ensured that I wasn’t a bottleneck when it came to moving projects forward. This type of lifestyle is definitely a balancing act that isn’t for everyone, but if you’re incredibly organized and adventurous, I’d highly recommend it.
5. Finally…. You’ve got a return for Guestyval pencilled in for September 2021. If you weren’t putting the event on in Tel Aviv again, where would be your ideal location?
After GuestyVal 2019 (we took a break this year due to COVID-19 of course), we surveyed our community and event attendees to gauge if they were keen on attending GuestyVal in a different city. Overwhelmingly, the top choice was still Tel Aviv, though I will note that Reykjavík came in second and Barcelona in third!
GuestyVal truly is our pride and joy. And as we look towards the future with optimism and the confidence that travel will return to normal, we are excited to have set aside the dates of September 22-24, 2021 in vibrant Tel Aviv for our annual festival.
We really can’t wait to gather this community again, safely and in person for three days of learning, networking and good old fashioned fun.