Hotels: Using Social Media to Communicate During a Crisis.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends
Wednesday, 15th May 2013
Exclusive Feature: No one is immune to a crisis, not even hotels, airlines or the travel industry; How you handle that crisis, however, is key to not only exuding calm and professionalism, but also to retaining customers.

So how do hotels effectively manage communications in the event there's a crisis, like an earthquake or other natural disaster, or worse, a terrorist attack. What are the courses of action to ensure that customers are kept safe and updated on that latest activities and safety precautions.

And how does content and social media play in a part in this crisis communication? That's the conversation I'll be having with senior executives of hotels and airlines at this year's EyeForTravel Conference, taking place June 4-5 at the Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove.

As a veteran reporter, I'm used to getting my news straight from the wires or news desk. There's rarely a weekday I'm not up by 5 a.m. combing the newscasts to hear what's happening around the world. But these days, my morning news ritual also includes Twitter. I read my feeds religiously each morning to see what hotel and airlines are doing today, what new promotions they're talking about or what destinations they're highlighting. Social media has become a source of news generation, as well as a communication tool. Using it wisely and effectively, and attaching relevant content to social media messaging is a win-win for hotels and customers.

But when disaster strikes, what do you do? We've all seen the nightmarish tweets from travelers trapped in planes at the gate for hours, or photos from dirty hotel rooms or sifted-through buffet lines. No one wants their company talked about in bad light, so how do you handle these type of tweets. Even worse, how do you handle communicating on social media in the event of a bigger crisis - like a national disaster or a terrorist attack.

We saw first-hand the brave responses from Boston hotels like the Lexox Hotel in Boston immediately following the Boston Marathon bombings. The hotel's Twitter feed did everything to keep guests informed about safety, next steps and re-openings. They communicated with response teams and family members, and even fielded any questions they could regarding the state of the situation as it was unfolding. We'll talk more about this next month during my panel discussion at the conference.

In the meantime, I'm consistently asked by hotels how to effectively manage Twitter feeds and Facebook posts so that it's a nice blend between customer service and hotel and destination information. Here's just a few tips:

Be proactive, not reactive. Not everything is an emergency, and it's important to know what to respond to and what you can handle simply by picking up the phone and calling the customer directly.

Be smart - in the event of a serious crisis, like the Boston Marathon bombings, the best source of information is local law enforcement. Don't offer up information you're not briefed on or that you aren't able to confirm directly with your team.

Be honest - the best course of action when handling a crisis via social media is to be honest. If you don't know how to the resolve the issue, make sure to tell your guests you'll follow-up, and then do that.

If you're joining travel execs at the EyeForTravel conference in June, make sure to stop by and say hello. I'll be sitting on the panels about content and social media with Rebecca Kollaras of Benchmark Hospitality and Corey Finjer of Hawkins International Public Relations.

Readers: What do you want to know about handling social media and content communication in a crisis? Email me at melanie@melanienayer.com and let me know.

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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