Communication Strategy 101 for Business Travel Managers

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by Shelley Fletcher-Bryant, Director of Sales & Client Management

Today’s travel managers have a tough job on their hands; trying to manage forecasting for 2021, building a right-sized air and hotel program and keeping travelers informed about the latest developments and COVID-19-related program changes with an engagement communications strategy.

Business travel industry collective, the Travel and Meetings Standards group (TAMS) recently published their communications guidelines report. This guide helps travel managers gain a greater understanding of employee engagement and provides helpful information on how to build an effective communication plan.

As part of the committee who produced the guide, and based on many years of experience of delivering traveler and employee engagement campaigns for some of the largest global brands, here are my top five tips for building and implementing an effective employee engagement strategy.

Firstly, employee engagement is more than just communication. It’s about understanding your different audiences and what they want (and need) to know; what your available communication channels are; and how to create a multi-channel approach that is impactful, relevant, and easy to understand. An effective communications and engagement strategy can elevate your travel program by building trust and traveler confidence. This is particularly important right now, as business travelers around the world are beginning to travel again, trusting that their travel program will keep them safe is the first step to getting back on the road.

Step 1: Goals

  • Clearly define and limit goals to an achievable number, ideally no more than three.
  • Make each goal SMART: specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time-bound.
  • Make sure goals can be impacted through your communication efforts

Step 2: Channel review

  • Spend time thoroughly reviewing all available communication channels.
  • Consider every touchpoint in the travelers’ planning and booking experience. This could include intranet, social community, email, OBT, mobile tools, and more.

Step 3: Audience identification

  • Know who to communicate with and what their different needs are.
  • Consider divisions, business units, or groups and how their travel patterns and needs differ.

Step 4: Aligning channels and messages to audiences

  • Consider the effectiveness of each channel for different audiences and messages.
  • Each message should be created specifically for the intended audience.
  • The most impactful campaigns are multi-channel, using different ways to reach specific audiences with reinforcing messages.

Step 5: Stakeholder engagement

  • Create strategic overviews that clearly demonstrate results/impact for internal stakeholders.
  • Consider external stakeholders and how best to engage with them.
  • Advise suppliers how they can communicate information so it can be integrated with your overall engagement strategy.

Once you’ve done the groundwork, focus your efforts on building communications that cover the core areas of your program and what travelers need to know. Focus on air, hotel, ground transportation, agencies & OBTs, and meetings & events messaging. Give travelers the essential information; what they need to know now to help them make decisions and find useful sources of information. Make sure it’s timely and relevant to your target audience. And be sure to use multiple channels to help the message reach your audience and resonate.

Use strong visuals, not just copy. Consider what images and graphics you could use to bring the message to life. And think creatively about using alternative communication tactics, like infographics, video, podcasts/audio and rotating digital banners.

Finally, be sure to measure your efforts. Make sure your messages are reaching your intended audience and having the desired effect.

You can manage your complete employee engagement strategy internally, using the tips above and guidance from the TAMS Communication Guide. Equally, you can work with a trusted partner with proven experience, who can support you and manage the process for you.

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