During the second semester of my senior year in college, I sold a story about a postman who delivered mail by boat all over the lake I lived on in Belgrade, Maine – Great Pond. This man, Dave Webster, was a classic Maine Yankee and was the inspiration for the mailboat man in the Henry Fonda movie, On Golden Pond.
After selling that first story, I went home to Quincy, Massachusetts, flush with the excitement of having sold a magazine story. I proposed a second story about the Quincy Quarries to the editor who had bought my first story.
“What’s the angle, Jim?” the editor asked me.
The hook? I didn’t know what a hook was. Inadvertently, I’d stumbled upon a hook when I pitched the Dave Webster story: He was the last man to deliver mail by boat in America. Who wouldn’t be interested in that? But for the quarries, I had no hook. Didn’t know what one was.
“Oh, well, the Quincy quarries are a collection of great, deep pools of water in the Blue Hills.”
Call me back, Mel told me, when you have a hook. I didn’t find my hook for the quarries story until years later after yet another young kid died jumping from the cliffs, but I did learn about the hook and wrote a number of other stories for Yankee.
Why am I talking about this? Well, this anecdote is something of a hook into something every hotel needs if it wants media attention. In the hotel industry, we call these hooks USPs. What distinguishes your property. It’s not enough to say your service is great, or that you’re upscale. What is it that you have that no one else has… besides a stunning location?
The Metropole in Hanoi is the only hotel in Vietnam with a bomb shelter. The Emeraude is a replica of a paddle steamer that cruised the waters of Halong Bay between 1906 and 1937. The Nam Hai’s villas are modern intepretations of Vietnam’s nha ruong, or garden homes. The Caravelle is the most famous ‘war hotel’ ever.
Every hotel has one, but unless you’ve had someone as insistent as my old editor at Yankee demanding one, you might not know quite how to sharpen the barb.