How Hotels May Mitigate Bad Publicity

By Steven D. Weber Managing Partner, Stark Weber PLLC | September 02, 2018

In an age where so many players are competing to be noticed, it is easy to understand why some people say that there is no such thing as bad press.  But, is there an area where good press ends and bad press begins? Hospitality players would be well served to plan in advance for any instance of bad press.  In this article we consider a basic potential primer for responding to bad press.

Developing a plan for responding to bad press before bad press arises is one of the most important steps. The plan should include such elements as knowing who is in the response team, developing relationships with designated points of information that might counter bad press, and understanding legal ramifications of certain bad press.  Developing dedicated communication lines before bad press strikes may expedite a response to any bad press.

When a hospitality player develops their response plan, the hospitality player should consider reviewing existing policies and determining what, if any, policies it additionally requires.  As part of this process, the hospitality player should determine what policies apply to which of its contractors or employees.  For example, given the prevalence of electronic document systems, it may be crucial to have the person with knowledge of those systems take a lead role in developing a policy to preserve documents in accordance with the applicable law.  It is important that all contactors or employees with information that may need to be preserved pursuant to law be aware of those policies.

Hospitality players should consider putting together the appropriate response team.  The exact composition of a response team will depend upon the hospitality player. A hospitality player may want to include a Chief Technology Officer or other individual who has sufficient knowledge of the electronic systems used by the hospitality player.  This person may work to provide access to important systems, to ensure that systems are maintained, that the hospitality player can comply with any preservation requirements, and more.  A hospitality player should include a person with knowledge of the internal dynamics of the hospitality player or who knows which team member has the requisite knowledge needed to respond to the bad press. A hospitality player may also want to consider adding legal counsel to its response team. 

In some cases, bad press may be actionable.  Legal counsel may allow a hospitality player to assess its options for seeking relief in response to bad press.  Legal counsel may also assist in seeking immediate injunctive relief, if necessary.  Not acting promptly in response to an event could prevent any injunctive relief. 

In some cases, bad press may give rise to a lawsuit.  The exact claims that are available to a hospitality player related to the bad press will depend upon the specific facts that relate to the bad press.  Such claims may include, but are not limited to defamation, trade libel, or business disparagement.  Vetting of the bad press is essential to determine the possible merits of such an action.  In many cases, this will involve a strong understanding of the available facts.  When bad press features facts that are disputed, it is essential that an investigation be conducted into the allegations in the bad press and that the hospitality player know which facts are true and which appear to be false.  Knowing which facts are true and which appear to be false will allow a hospitality player to determine the feasibility of maintaining a cause of action related to that bad press. 

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.