The spirit of sharing: A case study

permanently planted itself in the sales and marketing lexicon, up until recently, newsletters had been a holdout. After all, one of the savory things about publishing your own newsletter is that it's, well, yours. Your turf. Your baby. Your chance to have a clandestine, direct-mail affair with your best customers -- distraction free. Nonetheless, attracted to the creative financing possibilities, more and more marketers are latching on to the spirit of sharing. And it seems almost foolproof.

A few clients of First Marketing Company have taken the "group" approach in publishing their newsletters. Perhaps the most successful communal newsletter is Southern Hospitality, a shared effort by six Westin hotels in the southeastern states. Currently, the "Westins of the Southeast" include properties in Hilton Head, S.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and two properties in Atlanta.

"One of our goals with the newsletter is promoting the Westin brand in the South," says Wendy Lothspeich, director of sales at The Westin Peachtree in Atlanta. "There were previously very few hotels in the region and this medium was a way to get the word out about multiple properties in the area."

The six-page newsletter features a one-two punch of property-specific pieces combined with Westin worldwide promotions. Each property governs about a page, exhibiting their own promotional package, hotel news or a combination of the two. The articles range from an invitation for "Breakfast on the Beach" at Hilton Head to an article about the city of Savannah.

Sharing momentum
The biggest and most obvious benefit to such an arrangement is shared production and mailing costs. And the biggest drawback is sharing space in the newsletter. A simple trade-off, right? It depends on how you look at it. In fact, a closer look reveals that you get a little more than what you pay for with a shared newsletter.

"I definitely feel the audience gets more for their valuable time when reading about multiple hotel offerings," Lothspeich says. "Our joint effort offers a wealth of information in just a short time."

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