Checking in for Hotel Crisis Management

June 30th, 2011

This week tragedy unfolded at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul as terrorists attacked the site, leading to a deadly battle.  The hotel is considered to be in a relatively safe and calm district, so this attack is certainly unsettling to both locals and travelers.

The hotel’s corporate office has issued statements of condolence and concern (though we would have advised placing these press releases more prominently on relevant pages instead of burying them in several click-throughs).  That said, the particular PR issue of course is crisis management for similar incidents at hotels worldwide.  After all, it hasn’t been too long since the similar – and far more devastating – attack took place at Mumbai sites in 2008.

Crisis PR for any global entity, including hotels, must think far and wide when it comes to the range of disasters it must prepare for.  Think of it this way:

Hotel in Japan? Consider that a tsunami or other natural disaster may hit.

Hotel in Greece? The austerity riots have been raging for weeks, are area hotel guests ready to navigate the mayhem?

Hotel in Canada? The Vancouver riots and violence certainly won’t make guests feel terribly welcome anytime soon.

Hotel in New Zealand? Hope that Chile volcano eruption doesn’t affect visiting guests.

Hotel in Egypt? That country continues to grapple with the fallout from revolution.

• Hotel in New York? We all know how this one is playing out so far.

The point is to show a snapshot of the truly global phenomena of crisis management for hotels, and how the discipline applies on just about every continent.  That means prior planning to grid out the potential scenarios, and a social media and digital strategy to broadcast rapid messages to inform guests and future business about the current state of affairs.  If a global hotel chain hasn’t checked in on these fronts, then they certainly can’t expect future guests to do the same.

The Top Mistake in Media Training

June 27th, 2011

Ever wonder what’s the biggest mistake when it comes to interview preparation and media trainingFailing to do any media training in the first place.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, we’ve been handed a golden opportunity to illustrate how critical it is to never, ever wing an interview or other media-related presentation.  At this year’s BET Awards, a viewer’s choice contest winner got the opportunity to present one of the ceremony’s awards.  Here’s a link to a video clip of the presentation.

As you can see, numerous mini-flubs add up to a total video disaster.  The deer-in-headlights look, the mistake in naming the winner, the second mistake in naming the winner, the third (three times!) mistake in naming the winner, and the unfortunate association of a victim of domestic violence with the perpetrator.

Similar errors can quickly undermine an otherwise easy interview with softball questions.  Never assume a media interview means you can show up unprepared – you must understand the setting and logistics, research the questioner and audience, and anticipate questions and answers beforehand.  Practice, practice, practice is always the winning media training formula.

“The Rumors of Our Brand Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated!”

June 23rd, 2011

So, according to 24/7 Wall St., several venerable brands will die in 2012, including A&W, Saab, and American Apparel.  Whether or not these brands actually expire, there are two critical PR issues at stake for all of them.  It’s actually fairly easy to analyze things from this brand perspective.

First, is the prediction true?  If so, before the creditors start lining up, it’s worthwhile to start running some PR triage.  For any parent companies involved, they certainly won’t want the sinking ship to hurt the larger operation.  Start by creating a core slate of messages that clearly and directly explain exactly what’s happening with the business winding down, which preempts bystanders from crafting their own narrative of the demise.  Give marching orders to all staff to stick to this line publicly to avoid conflicting messages that will only confuse stakeholders.  And make sure your company’s site and digital channels present the messaging upfront so interested media can easily find them.

(Now if this isn’t the case, we go to the next scenario…)

Second, is the prediction not true?  Are the rumors of the brand/company demise incorrect?  If so, better set the record straight – and fast.  As discussed above, any parent companies will certainly demand such discipline, along with investors, shareholders, subsidiaries, business partners… the list goes on and on – and each probably requires a different set of messages and expectations.  Again, the idea is to preempt the media narrative on your own terms, instead of having interested reporters and competitors do it for you.

And that’s the binary calculus for today.  A strong brand’s instinct of course is to survive, but if they don’t, there’s always room for a comeback…

June 2011 Ær Mail Newsletter

June 17th, 2011

Check out the latest edition of our newsletter, Ær Mail!  To sign up for regular distribution, click here.

When Not to Do a Press Conference

June 16th, 2011

Today Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in the wake of his Twitter scandal.  We’ll leave it to others to pass moral judgment on his behavior; rather, we’re more interested in the PR-related aspects of this now (presumably) concluded ordeal.

What’s really interesting is the manner in which Weiner delivered his announcement.  So we’ll ask the big question: Why in the world would he do this via press conference? Let’s examine the reality against a reasonable alternative, which would have been a simple public statement.

First, let’s look at the goal of today’s communication.  Aside from repeating any apologies, Weiner’s intent clearly was to announce he’s leaving Congress.  The fundamental details are already out in the public, so there was no need to deliver the news live, in person.

Second, a statement wouldn’t have been any less authentic or lacking emotion.  Take the transcript of Weiner’s remarks, shorten them a bit, and you’ve got very effective messaging that accomplishes its purpose.

Third, the smart money is on Weiner making a comeback at some point.  Again, this element wouldn’t have been lost either in a statement.

Fourth – and by far the most important consideration – so many things can go wrong in a press conference, and this one descended into a nightmarish spectacle due to offensive heckling.  We could easily devote a series of posts to the potential pitfalls of a live press conference, but it’s sufficient to note that they require careful planning to attune for audience, logistics, and the potential peanut gallery.

Weiner certainly has time on his hands to find closure and plot his return to political life, but going out on this bombastic note won’t make the first steps in that process easy.

The Social Media Back-Up Strategy

June 14th, 2011

We’ve written before about the importance of crisis management when it comes to data breaches and hacking.  This crisis scenario is real and every week brings another victim. The IMF, the U.S. Senate, Citigroup –who knows who’s next.

As cyber attacks on big targets are a certainty, the best crisis management plans focus on message delivery while the intrusions take place.  This particular technique is effectively demonstrated during the recent attack on PBS’s site.  While the news organization’s site was down at that time, PBS staff made smart use of social media to publish transcripts and continue broadcasting their content.  PBS’s approach may seem seamless, though we’re willing to guess that’s because their principals anticipated such an event and applied smart crisis management thinking in their approach.

When a major company or organization’s site suddenly goes blank, the rush to rescue the online property often doesn’t allow time to think on the fly about what “Plan B” might be.  For such big players, it’s critical to take advantage of affordable and resource-rich social media platforms to help weather the storm until the central website’s secure and online again.

Praecere Guest Post in

June 8th, 2011

We were invited again (we’re really good guests!) to write a blog post for –  a great company that’s scored some seriously amazing press lately.  Read our article on quick PR tips for restaurants.  So remember, Owner Olivia and Chef Charlie, PR is an absolute must for your eatery, particularly when the loan default rate for restaurants runs around 20 percent!

Thank you Dan Bischoff for the opportunity to contribute.

Now That It’s (Sort Of) Over

June 7th, 2011

So the press conference has past, and it was certainly bizarre at moments.  Anyway… the point of this article is not to pass moral judgment on Congressman Anthony Weiner – there’s already a ton of that going around, even by those who engage in questionable contextual attacks.  Rather, we offer a case study on how not to handle a public relations crisis.  If your bread and butter is in politics, then read carefully!

Plan, plan, and plan some more.  Are you a Member of Congress?  High ranking public official?  Wanna-be presidential candidate with a checkered ethical/moral record (particularly one who’s running as a conservative “values” candidate)?  Then you need a crisis public relations plan since you will be attacked, no matter how strong you play the nice guy card.

Remember that plan?  Stick with it.  Don’t start answering questions, then say you’re not going to, speaking up again, and taking a second vow of silence.

Don’t call a reporter “jackass.” Yes, that’s a specific directive.  No matter how air-tight or solid an alibi you may have, if you name-call a reporter, that’s what the headline will be.

Don’t make light of a serious situation.  Remember this guy, and the incredibly tone deaf comments he made?  In the future, many people might reflect on Weinergate and argue that the “certitude” comment falls in the same category.  We’d argue the tipping point of this PR crisis was actually when Weiner made the flippant tweet about his personal tech products turning on him, including Twitter.

Praecere in the News

May 25th, 2011

Hope you’re getting ready for the holiday weekend! When you’re sitting on the beach sipping that fancy drink, take in the latest and greatest on PR news and trends:

• Read our interview in Modern Medicine, discussing social media strategies for plastic surgeons. Yes, even they need to think about PR!

• Praecere President Bobby Zafarnia interviewed in PR Daily re: White House PR fallout after Osama bin Laden raid.

• Wondering who’s offering the best commentary on PR and the hottest news items? Sure you are! Check out (listen to) Bobby Zafarnia‘s interview on the Patrick Wiscombe Show, where we discuss the bin Laden raid, crisis PR, social media, QR codes, and much more.

How and Why Scandals Follow Companies – and What to Do about It

May 19th, 2011

Today’s sex scandal news is not about DSK, but rather Munich Re, a German insurance conglomerate that’s got quite a bit on its hands… or wrists?  Turns out that company executives in 2007 hosted an orgy at a Budapest bath house where prostitutes wore color-coded bracelets indicating their availability for sex favors.

The company’s statement, four years later, rightly takes a stern tone and emphasizes that the party was “a serious violation” of company rules and “would not happen again” – definitely a smart crisis PR move.  But one of the more amazing aspects of this event is that it was documented in a company newsletter … in 2007!  So what does this mean in the crisis management context?

Bad news will almost always leak.  Accounting no-no’s, insider trading, sweetheart deals, civil rights violations – no matter how old or in the past these events may seem in a company’s history, if they haven’t come to light they will.  The question is whether the company is prepared to handle the fallout.

It’s all about the present momentMunich Re’s statement cited above also explains that the executives who organized the event are no longer with the company.  That’s definitely a good point to emphasize, but the problem is that with big faceless corporations, the public perceives the brand as the key actor and not individual executives.  Even though a few bad actors are gone, the stink of the scandal will often remain.

Have your holding statement ready.  We’ve written extensively about the need for prior crisis management planning, and how holding statements are a critical factor.  If the event was chronicled in 2007, then Munich Re leadership presumably knew about it and thus had ample time to plan for negative media attention.

The best crisis management is often about prior planning, at least when your company has the luxury of time, so map the steps out before the spotlight’s on you.

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