Creating a Crisis Communications Plan for Your Hotel

By Didi Lutz President, Didi Lutz PR | October 28, 2008

Hopefully, it will be the only part of your strategic Public Relations plan that you will never have to execute: a crisis plan is often times the most important part of the communications strategy.

A crisis is usually referred to as an event that can affect a property in a negative way. This can be anything from a fire, to a guest relations issue, a computer glitch, or it can result from a renovation, a management change, new ownership, etc. The effects of a crisis can be short term or long term, and many times the damage can be irreversible. When a crisis is handled poorly, it affects your reputation, brand management, and most of all your credibility- and when credibility is badly damaged, the affects can be fatal to your business.

Ultimately, a crisis plan outlines the communications strategy and tactics that should be undertaken for each scenario identified by the Executive Committee of a hotel. As I have indicated from time to time in my columns over the years, your PR or Communications counsel, whether an in-house or outsourced professional, should have a seat on your hotel's Executive Committee. I am seeing more hotels follow this practice in recent years, and I hope other properties follow their example.

Parts that should be included in a strategic crisis plan include designating a spokesperson, writing out talking points, compiling a list of who should be notified, and who should be contacted first about the issue, how employees should address the crisis, how other stakeholders should respond, what steps are being taken to remedy the situation, a list other damage control measures, and much more.

I encourage all my hospitality clients to create crisis plans for their properties, regardless of size and type, as it is a very involved project that requires objectivity, discretion, and professionalism. If drafted properly, crisis plans can not only save a property from a potential PR nightmare, but often times it can help prevent it.

Steps to consider when creating a crisis plan:

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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.