It was late January 2010 and I was on a external photoshoot that was being disrupted by an unexpected overnight snowfall. The phone rang (my iPhone 3 back in the day) and it was an Inverness based PR consultant who was enquiring if we were interested in pitching for a hotel client in the Highlands. ‘Yes’ is always the answer, and that evening I was reading their pitch brief that would be the start of a long relationship and an exciting journey. Literally.
How we met them was classic 6 degrees of separation. Caroline, the PR consultant, had heard about SHINE through a friend of hers who worked in the same department of ScotRail who were our client at the time. She had overheard positive tones about our work from the ScotRail marketing team and when Caroline was looking for central Scotland recommendations our name was in the hat.
I started to do a lot of research about the hotel and its competitors and we had a pitch date in place for mid March in Edinburgh. I then took a £400 gamble that proved to be pivotal in how the process unfolded and laid the foundations for the next 10 years. I went and stayed at The Torridon in Wester Ross one week before the pitch to really understand what they were all about, what the place was like and to really see, touch and feel what we were begin asked to market. I remember taking lots of photos and I was sitting in the drawing room of the hotel sending these back to the office so our pitch could get worked on over that weekend.
Later that week in Edinburgh I met the husband and wife owners Dan & Rohaise Rose-Bristow of The Torridon and the investment in visiting their property payed off as our 45 minute pitch slot lasted over 2 hours and I was able to start our meeting with “The venison was lovely” as opposed to “Let me just open Power Point”. We then had a long chat about my visit as they were really interested in my experience and also knew that I hadn’t been met at the front door on arrival…..such is their attention to detail, standards and levels of personal hospitality.
We were appointed a week later and I was on a train to Inverness a few days after that to start planning our first campaign.
It’s been amazing to be part of their growth over the last 10 years. They are a joy to work with. You are treated fairly, respectfully, you are listened to and you know were you stand with them regardless of whether the regular feedback is good or sometimes less good! Dan once gave me a soundbite that I quote regularly and my hope is I was at least being referenced in some capacity –
“Bring in an expert, pay them their rate and let them get on with what they are good at.”
When we started working with them they were a 4 Star property and we were doing regular deals, offers and discounts to increase occupancy. Over the years their constant investment in the business has seen them climb, quite rightly, from 4 Stars to 4 Red Stars then to 5 Stars and now 5 Red Stars – the pinnacle of UK hospitality ratings.
My favourite part of the journey to Torridon is just past Achnasheen when you are on a beautiful winding road that opens out to one of the most famous views in Scotland, it is famously used to market the North Coast 500 route despite that bit of road not actually being on the route. The first time drove that route and every time I have visited since (yes, every time…..both arriving and departing) I have stopped to take the same photo regardless of the time of day or the weather. That part of the world is really magical and it feels amazing to hear the peace & silence. You can feel any stress or pressure lifting from you as you drive towards The Torridon.
Working with them over the years has had some amazing highlights. We have developed their website three times, working with them to launch their Arcturus Gin, several fun nights at award ceremonies, the occasional April Fools on social media, early phone calls and late night e-mails as well as calls when on holiday have all been part of the service. We then started a conversation around rebranding The Torridon to allow their identity to catch-up with the level of the 5 Star resort.
This BBC Amazing Hotels programme arrives at a pivotal time. We bounded into 2020 with an epic plan in place weaved together by the dream team of The Torridon, SHINE and Custard Communications. We were in the middle of a rebranding project, we were planning to relaunch their bar and restaurant and we knew the broadcast of this show was coming at some point in the Autumn. Then the small matter of a global pandemic arrived and the hotel was closed. Even during the 17 weeks they were closed they handled the situation admirably both in how myself and SHINE were communicated with on a personal and business level and also watching how they worked with their teams during a time of incredible uncertainty. Even in troubling times their professionalism and integrity was unwavering and they didn’t lose sight of their vision.
I have a very fond memory of arriving one evening to the hotel in the winter…….a bit later than planned due to weather and I walked through the door and the receptionist welcomed me with “Hi Craig”, she took my case, handed me a Corona and said that the owner was waiting for me in the bar!
On a business level our relationship has led to so many other doors been opened and opportunities to do business with others in the hospitality sector and beyond and I cannot thank them both enough for that support.
My first visit was in March 2010 and I am already booked in for September 2020 for a special occasion visit with family.
“Given how many times I have stayed at The Torridon – probably over 30 times at The Hotel and easily over 10 times at The Stables. I am fully expecting a Carriage Clock when I have stayed in all the rooms.”
So, it would be nice to sit back tonight with a beer, put my feet up and enjoy watching The Torridon receiving global recognition for being an Amazing Hotel run by an Amazing Couple. But I will be on-duty. Myself and my colleagues from SHINE will be monitoring all social channels, website hits and ensuring that the website can cope with the demand that we are expecting for viewing figures north of 1.8 million. So I will be at my desk. (But with a beer I would like to add)
It will be an Amazing Moment and it really is “a place like no other”.
ps. Luckily I managed to get through this blog avoiding the ‘spilt bottle of red wine on the green carpet’ story. I will save that for the 20 years, it’s still too soon.