Next time the Sheraton Suites, Embassy Suites or Holiday Inn hotel chains are looking for a PR spokesperson, they should choose the winning candidate from among Publicity Hounds who read my newsletter, “Craigslist: A Valuable Publicity Tool.”
Last week, I told you about the video produced by an Atlanta TV station that took its hidden cameras into guest rooms at local hotel chains. At those three chains, the video showed, the housekeeping staff never used soap and water to clean dirty glasses and coffee cups in the guests’ rooms.
I told you to watch the video and then tell me how you would respond if you were the PR person at one of those chains.
Many of the responses are excellent and showed the appropriate level of contrition and embarrassment. But one response, in particular, stood out from the others.
Jennifer Moreau, a marketing specialist with ITU Inc., an industrial towel and uniform company in New Berlin, Wisconsin, suggested that the hotel apologize for the safety violation, then ask the TV station to become involved in reporting on the change in housekeeping procedures.
“For instance, invite them to the initial meeting with staff when this video is shown so they obtain footage of staff reaction to the hidden camera video and the discussion that takes place after,” she wrote. “Then, have the media do a second hidden video test after a month or 2 months when the changes were implemented to ensure that they actually were.
“Working with the media as a partner instead of an enemy will actually help both parties. They get a better, more in-depth story, the hotel improves their process, and both receive PR coverage. Plus, the hotel’s credibility is perceived much higher by admitting the problem right away and dealing with it to solve it. This, in turn would reduce potential negative sales effects and perhaps could actually have a positive effect on sales.”
“Clarence and I like the idea. Formally called the ‘ride-along,’ it invites the media inside. ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ gives the reporters a unique view.
“Tylenol execs used this invite-them-in technique effectively when cyanide was maliciously injected into the company’s star drug. The company invited “60 Minutes” to watch company execs debate how to handle the drug tampering crisis.
“Lawyers cringe. But in a crisis, it is a matter of saving your image and often the entire company. Tylenol didn’t suffer any long-term market share loss, and is still very much in business.”
Clarence and Ellen were doing a crisis counseling training for clients when I contacted them.
“We discussed the hotel glass story in our media training class today,” Ellen said. “It was amazing how many people from all over the U.S. had seen or heard of this one story that was initially done by one local TV station. With YouTube and Internet connection to the TV’s website, bad news like this is immediate worldwide…Many of our students today said they’ve been using bottled water in their hotel rooms since that story.”
Jennifer’s comment wins her $200 in Publicity Hound products.
All of you can win, too, by reading Clarence Jones’ excellent book “Winning with the News Media: A Self-Defense Manual When You’re the Story.” It’s the book I wish I had written. I referred to my copy so often that it eventually fell apart from overuse, and I had to order another one. Order yours. In fact, order two. Give one to the Publicity Hound on your gift list.