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Your hotel is not the first lodging house to find themselves at the center of a public relations disaster. As you know, news goes viral faster than the speed of light and in order to bounce back your public relations team must have a solid crisis management plan. This plan requires more than an apologetic press release or a CEO’s dishonest circuit of appearances on primetime television. Crisis Management must respond to disasters promptly and decisively, using an array of platforms to communicate with the public. Most importantly, companies that make mistakes must accept responsibility for their actions instead of playing the blame game and distancing themselves from those mistakes. My proposal would be for the head of the department to confront the issue head on in a press conference emphasizing that the hotel doesn’t discriminate against those with physical limitations. “Often, proactive crisis management can defuse or minimize the damage in advance by planning out both action and communication strategies” (Broom and 308). As mentioned above it’s important to seem sincere and not rehearsed. The goal is to regain the trust of the public, dismiss confusion and the perception of incompetence. Stay away from wording that promotes the attitude of insensitivity and retaliation. Remember not to place blame and own up to your part in this fiasco. Placing blame promotes confrontation and could place the company in a back and forth debate that leads to litigation.
Although you had several options on how to respond to the hotel fiasco, your first option was the best for this situation. Immediately issuing a video news release in which the CEO persuasively outlines how this was an isolated incident and does not reflect hotel-chain policy is not a bad idea, however it does get into playing the blame game between employee and employer. The option of placing blame on the offending manager and announcing that he has been removed from his position absolutely places blame on the other person. A position we should avoid due to the possibility of that blamed employee suing the company. In that case both parties lose. Reviewing the booking policies and procedures for both the chain and for each hotel to see if there is a real policy issue with such bookings could come off wrong for several reasons.
This could take some time to review if management is not familiar with the policy. While we know that this step is going the extra mile to quote the policy word for word, to the public it may look like buying time to come up with a story. It may also give the impression of hesitation and not being honest. Again, the overall goal is to gain the trust of the public. Developing and placing media feature stories about hotel employees who have family members participating in the Special Olympics is also not a bad idea but has nothing to do with the hotel. If the hotel hosts this event and allows the families to stay there during the competition, that would be great PR for the chain and shows transparency towards other groups of people and their differences. In short, we all make mistakes. The way a company responds to a crisis determines the longevity of that company’s future. There’s not one method that will fix all problems that come about however, the take away here is to be prepared not if, but when your crisis hits. Your company’s reputation is a fragile thing that takes years to build and seconds to destroy. Despite how may likes your company has on social media and no matter how trusted your brand is right now, no company is immune from a public relations crisis forever.
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