Media Relations: Handling Bad News

By Doug Luciani Chief Associate, PRofit from PR - Public Relations & Marketing | October 28, 2008

Good news is great, but handle a bad news story poorly and the negative publicity can be severe.

A successful media relations campaign is valuable to any business, including hotels and resorts. Positive exposure of a property can generate reservations, increase profits, and give a business a competitive edge. However, the press isn't always going to be good. Bad news is a reality and negative publicity can erase any positive exposure.

Hotels are extremely susceptible to negative news. Food poison stories and stories about crime against guests often make the headlines. Some stories are completely out of the control of a hotel, such as hurricanes, floods or wild fires. Other stories are investigative reports that media outlets may do to expose flaws like unsanitary practices or unsafe furniture, such as defective cribs. It doesn't matter if they actually find something, perception can often become reality.

It is important to be ready to handle the crisis communications surrounding these types of stories. If handled poorly, a negative story can be devastating to a hotel's reputation and bottom line. An effective response can help minimize this, and in some instances, the response is so well received by the public the business actually grows stronger. Johnson & Johnson is a textbook case of this following the Tylenol poisonings in 1982. Because they put public safety ahead of profits, the media and consumers gave the company high praise.

Many think they can control the media or that reporters in their local market are their friend. That may be true, until a crisis erupts. A key part of any effective crisis communications plan is to have an appropriate spokesperson prepared to handle a media who will dig, probe and try to knock you off your key message.

It is important to be open and honest in all communications. It is also important to be in control of your message. Only approved staff members should speak to the media and this is especially true in a crisis situation. In addition, hotels should have a crisis communications plan. This plan should be in writing, updated regularly, and distributed to the appropriate individuals for effective execution.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.