Above the Fold: A Master Class in Legal Public Relations

By William A. Brewer III Managing Partner, Bickel & Brewer | May 22, 2011

I wrote in this publication a few years ago about the importance of managing public relations in connection with major hospitality disputes. As a law firm that often represents owners, developers, investors and managers in high-stakes legal matters, we recognize the importance of being advocates not only in the courtroom – but in the court of public opinion as well. Mergers and acquisitions, disputes over management agreements, and fights for ownership of guest information are some of the many topics that I previously referenced as "headline-grabbing issues" in the hospitality arena.

Given the interest in that previous article, I am writing this follow-up to underscore why hospitality professionals or their representatives must not only be familiar with the process of working with the news media; they should embrace it. The news media, after all, is a gateway to customers, employees, investors, analysts and legislators – all of whom have the ability to affect your business.

It is, apparently, counter-intuitive to many hospitality professionals to discuss business or legal issues with the news media. They sometimes have concerns about how to effectively shape, control and advance their message in an arena that may be unfamiliar to them. Indeed, there is often a perceived risk in working with the news media, particularly when your organization is confronting a contentious or controversial issue. Understandably, hospitality professionals worry about "going public" – and losing an element of control in how their business disputes are portrayed.

The truth is, the news media affords you and your organization an enormous opportunity. The press can provide a forum for you to effectively communicate with key audiences cost-effectively and efficiently. Oftentimes, the news media can provide balanced, impartial analysis of your organization or the issues in which it is involved.

Making sure your viewpoint is represented in high-profile reporting is central to your responsibility as a steward of a hotel property, investment group or management team. So how do you ensure that coverage about you or your organization is balanced and, even better, favorable?

Know the Basics:

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.