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Is your accommodation business ready for negative media attention?

Op-Ed: Pete Burdon says fake allegations or bad reviews are all it takes to ruin your reputation & asks are you ready for a media pile-on?

Since the advent of the Internet and social media, most accommodation businesses are unprepared for that unwanted call from a reporter about something that could threaten reputations, bottom lines, and in some cases, business survival.

All it takes is an allegation on Facebook, a few bad reviews and it doesn’t even have to be true.

What should you do to be ready?

It’s vital that you are ready for this, even if you don’t think you are at risk. It’s no different from business continuity insurance. The only difference is that we’re talking about your reputation and damage that can be detrimental to your future success.

Negative news stories also stay online forever and usually appear high up on Google searches.

The answer is a Crisis Communication Plan specifically for your business.

These come in all shapes and sizes. Some are hundreds of pages long and others are literally a list of bullet points. The best ones are brief but include the essentials. The best way to put them together is either with an outside expert or in a session with your leadership team.

Our latest AccomNews print issue is available now. Read it HERE

The first step is to brainstorm what your most likely risks are. This is important because you then need to write brief media statements on these, known as holding statements. These can then be tailored and sent to reporters quickly (you would still contact other important stakeholders first.)

The reason these are so important is that reporters will write their stories whether you are in them or not and then send them out through social media immediately.

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For the sake of your reputation, you are best to say something, however brief, rather than say ‘no comment.’

For example, let’s say there’s an allegation made about one of your staff. Your holding statement may say something like:

“We take all allegations extremely seriously and are looking into this immediately.” That will give you time to get your head together and it will satisfy media audiences at the outset. You will also look far more credible in that story.

The last thing you want these stories to say is something like, “the CEO refused to comment,” which most people interpret as “guilty as charged.”

Define roles 

Everyone needs to know their role if something does erupt. The first is an online manager. This person should be monitoring social media as part of their daily routine, and preferably with a paid monitoring tool that lets them see what people across networks are saying about the business.

This is not only good for marketing, but can find customer concerns before they turn into a full blown crisis. This person will also play a crucial part during a major issue or crisis.

The other vital role is that of media spokesperson. It’s usually important that a spokesperson accepts interview requests. Otherwise stories will all be heavily one-sided against the business and your case will never be heard.

This is common, particularly in broadcasting media. More about the skills required by this person in the next article.

Channels and contacts

While the focus here has been on the news media, there will be other stakeholders to contact, many of whom you would not want to hear the news through the media before hearing it from you. 

This is why you always need an up-to-date contact list and a variety of channels to communicate through.

Conclusion

 A Crisis Communication Plan doesn’t have to be difficult to put together. But it’s vital. It’s too late to contact a PR company when something happens. The horse will have bolted.

You may do that, but you’ll need to get the ball rolling yourself because the success or failure of your response will be determined by the speed at which you move.

Maintaining a good reputation is vital for any business, none more so than those offering accommodation. As Warren Buffett famously said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

By Pete Burdon

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Mark
Mark
1 year ago

Everyone has a different opinion. One person writes they love the bed another says its too hard, one hates the pillows , another loves the pillows, Until Google and Trip Advisor stop fake reviews I know for a fact I have had reviews from people who have NEVER stayed at our motel, one walked in the door said Google sent her to take photo’s of the property. Because she wasn’t allowed to enter the property she put a bad review up, she told a lie and then put up a review. A fake review. These are the downfall of running this type of business. People do not research or read what they are booking half the time and you know that by the questions they ask at check in. We had a guest walk in saying she was confused I asked why, she wanted to know where to park, we have a car park. Parking information is on the website in the confirmation information and if you look at the photo’s of the property you will see walk ways and gardens around the rooms. I had another guest who refused to provide a credit card, a cash bond was requested in the morning he was up dressed and demanding his money and demanded we go check the room, his partner was still in bed! He ranted and raved about going to the media. He had no consideration for his partner and he was the one that refused to provide a credit card and I know he had one as he had stayed previously and left the room in a mess. So a lot of the negative comments are because Guests do not read, do not research the property before staying and of course have their own opinion on how things should be and sometimes lie through their teeth. So before media go damaging a reputation they need to make sure they do their due diligence.

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