Creative Ways to Maintain Perillo Tours’ PR Presence During the Covid-19 Pandemic

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2020 started out strong for Perillo Tours, whose core business focuses on offering escorted, private, and custom tours to Italy.  Tourism in Italy was at an all-time high and Perillo was celebrating 75 successful years in business.  But in late January 2020 when Italy declared a national emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic and locked down the country, tourism there (and everywhere) ground to a halt.

This forced Perillo (along with the rest of the industry) to cancel all tours indefinitely, and presented a serious PR challenge:  how could we maintain a PR presence for Perillo Tours during the pandemic, and keep interest in travel to Italy with Perillo high…at a time when media appetites for covering travel to Italy was low?

Our solution had to take many factors into account.  Travelers were scrambling to cancel vacation plans amidst the travel ban, repeated surges in cases kept the “return to travel” date elusive, and any business promoting travel – especially to Covid-19 “hot spots” like Italy – was perceived as irresponsible.  So, we knew this challenge would be no walk in the park.

First, we recommended a temporary pause in proactive publicity to let the initial dramatic media frenzy fade a bit.  Next, we identified a list of media outlets that we felt were good candidates for positive Italy tourism awareness stories.  And then, we crafted precisely-tailored pitches for specific journalists at each outlet.  These focused on covering Perillo and Italy from creative angles that put owner Steve Perillo in the interview seat, talking about such topics as:

  • His top 10 places to eat pizza in Italy
  • The current and future state of travel to Italy
  • How to experience Italy virtually
  • How to best “plan now, travel later” with flexible cancellation policies
  • Bucket list Italy experiences you should seek out post-pandemic

These and other angles changed the narrative and gave Italy-starved media an opportunity to cover the destination in a way that works for the current trend landscape.

Media response to this campaign of targeted pitches was super strong, with editorial coverage appearing in Forbes, Rick Steves’ Europe, and Fox Business (view them at the top of this page), plus On Travel Radio, TravelPulse, AAA Magazine, Agent at Home, Trip Savvy, Travel Research Online, Kiplinger, TravelAge West, Johnny Jet, and more.  Consistent coverage over a 12-year period really kept the Perillo Tours PR presence high during a critical phase of the pandemic.

Oh, and want a laugh?  Here’s that time that Adam Sandler played Steve Perillo in a parody commercial for his Italy tours on Saturday Night Live.