There will be fewer greater challenges than dealing with the fallout of bad press, as a result of a negative review, staff problems or accidental occurrences. Your brand will truly be put to the test and it’s here where your fort needs to stay strong and you’ll need to demonstrate how calm and controlled you are under pressure. Handled properly and you’ll be guaranteed to come out still smiling. Tom Beasley, CEO of Wired Media shows us how.
When working with hospitality businesses, PR professionals must always be on their toes. Crisis management is a key part of any PR practitioner’s job role. The luxury sector shouldn’t be seen as any different to any other when it comes to a communication crisis; however knowing how to respond can make or break your hotel. Knowing how to react, regroup and recover are trivial to being a true PR professional.
Plan ahead of the crisis
Planning ahead can significantly reduce the impact of any ‘crisis’ which occurs. A good place to start is by drafting brief statements to go out to press which have been approved ahead of time. If they have already been signed off, it will save your valuable time if and when a PR crisis takes place. Even if these statements are a roundabout way of saying that you are investigating the issue, a response is vital to show you have recognised the issue and are working on a solution. Issuing ‘no comment’ statements insinuates that something has happened and that you are in the wrong, so it’s probably best to avoid this.
Another critical tool for planning ahead is to invest in training your staff. As ambassadors for your hotel and property, staff are going to come face to face with customers and questions around the crisis therefore need to understand the seriousness of the issue at hand. By ensuring that you are hiring a quality team and training them as a basic routine is also incredibly influential to the success of this.
But what happens when there isn’t time to prepare?
Whilst you have to ensure that you respond quickly, it has to be in a well-thought out and considered manner. How a hotel deals with a PR crisis truly reflects their values and personality and will be how a lot of guests will perceive them afterwards. There are many examples of hotels not admitting to bad reviews or negative experiences and this creates a negative reception, especially within the media. If the hotel is at fault, ultimately you will need to apologise and own up to whatever it is. Firstly…
When a crisis arises and you get a panic call from a member of team, the worst thing you can do is emotionally react. Take a deep breath and be calm, after all, they are depending on you to know how to handle the situation.
Speak with key people who need to be informed about the situation such as the General Manager, the owners (if they don’t know already), the social media/marketing team alongside any other employees who might need to be aware of the situation. Once you’ve explained what has happened, it will begin to make more sense and give you time to prepare.
The next obstacle to overcome is to work out exactly what happened – step by step. Speak to all who were involved, every single person. Before you can deal with the crisis, you first have to know the entire story inside out.
Top tip: Produce a document with a list of questions you would need to ask anyone involved if a crisis were to take place out of the blue, as you can never be too prepared. This will help cut down the amount of time and even though some of the questions will change according to each different circumstance, there will always be generic questions that will need to be asked. These can be as simple as asking for someone’s point of view, what was said word for word by those involved. By producing a list like this it will also prevent you from forgetting vital questions in the heat of the moment.
When further investigating a PR crisis, it is a good idea to use monitoring tools to listen out for any mentions on social media or online within press. Is the crisis purely on social media or has there been a comment by press online? This will help you to figure out the best channels to use when it comes to communicating and issuing a statement. Make sure you the full picture before making this decision.
Once you have all the information, this is the time to counteract any inaccuracies in stories. If information is printed or tweeted wrongly, contact the Editor/Owner and explain that this story is in fact incorrect. Additionally, you can dispel any wrong stories within your messaging, social media is particularly good for this.
Once you have spoken to everyone and documented the situation, debate with the rest of your team what will be the best way to communicate the hotels side of the story. Which channels are the best to do this, through social media or written statements? Remember that each channel has its own positives and negatives, for example, if you use social media, you are opening yourself up for more of a conversation.
This needs to be communicated to everyone within the hotel, including the owners. They will need to be 100% on side with what you are doing, as they may be questioned or contacted by press. Communication between key people at this stage is vital. You also need to ensure that all staff are prepped within the hotel and do not talk to any press without permission, including those who weren’t involved. You will also need to be on hand for any press calls or situations.
This is the stage where apologies need to take place, if necessary. Hotel’s often think if they apologise that it means that they taking full responsibility and will eventually mounts in a lawsuit however it can do quite the opposite. Sometimes guests or the media are just looking for an apology, and the apology doesn’t have to admit full guilt. It can show integrity and the true values of your business, particularly to new and recurring guests.
Once you have got what you want to say, get your word out and monitor reactions. Ask the rest of your team to keep their ears to the ground. Set up news alerts as well as using social media monitoring tools. After a day or two, evaluate if your PR crisis is still in need of more attention. This will obviously depend on the scale of damage but usually it only takes a couple of days for it to die down slowly and another story takes priority, particularly for press. This can be the most frustrating time as there isn’t much else to do but wait and see how outlets and audiences react or simply don’t react at all.
After the crisis you should structure a monthly campaign around producing positive PR for your hotel. Emphasise good stories about staff, involvement with the local community, any support for charities, new practices, launches – anything that is positive (and obviously newsworthy). This should be on-going anyway but particularly use the next few months to focus purely on rebuilding relationships. For example, you could organise a leisure or networking event for the local community and provide complimentary Champagne and canapes.
Wired Media (www.wiredmedia.co.uk) is a specialist hotel marketing agency with a proven track record in helping hoteliers generate more revenue. To find out more, call on 0117 911 9684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org