We’ve all been reporting on the destruction of lives, homes and properties due to natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, as well as the catastrophic earthquake in Mexico City and the wildfires in California. And while the physical and emotional damage is unfathomable yet evident, our cover story about reputation management is about another kind of damage—potential damage—to name, to character, to company. Something that’s not quite as visible yet can be utterly destructive. While at first glance, the two thoughts might seem disparate, there is a connection in terms of how the idea for the story was generated.
Hotel Business has told the stories of selflessness, compassion and hospitality shown by our industry during these catastrophes. From free hotel nights for displaced victims to donations of time and money to the collection of goods to help aid those who need it most, this industry has shown so much heart.
But amid the positive stories, there are the negative ones. The questionable motives. The ones where owners “go rogue” and don’t exemplify the sentiment of the brand, perhaps causing potential harm to the parent company. This is, in essence, where the cover story started.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, I was watching CNN. Florida’s Attorney General was speaking out against price gouging, specifically as it relates to hotels. She stated she would prosecute those who profit from other’s misfortunes, and gave the example of a hotel that was allegedly part of this act. She outed the “crummy” hotel, basically querying why anyone would stay at that brand anyway. Yikes, I thought. While I understand the argument against price gouging, she, in her delivery, threw that brand under the bus.
And then, our managing editor came to me about a report that another branded hotel property wouldn’t take in family pets during the days after the storms and how her friend declared she would never stay at that brand again. And, as we all know, oftentimes, friends will encourage friends to do the same.
Around the same time—yet unrelated—reports surfaced that a couple of other branded properties were sharing guest lists with ICE, resulting in arrest and potential deportation. As such, the parent brand, which clearly stated this was done on the local level, had to face calls for a boycott of its hotels.
When reputation takes a hit, damage control steps in. What are some positive solutions to negative impacts? We talk to experts who shed light on tips for protecting your name, not only in these isolated news-making incidents, but in everyday online reviews, where we all know word-of-mouth has become more powerful than ever before.