There is also a formula for the 4 C’s of Marketing Communications: Clarity, Credibility, Consistency and Competitiveness. Since circumstances have dealt 2020 a gut-wrenching blow, we have envisioned a new set of 4 C’s — the 4 C’s of marketing communications in a COVID and post-COVID world. Consider instead: Compassion, Comfort, Clarity, Credibility.
With this in mind, what steps should we consider to message? And does sequence of channels matter?
- Operations and Training:
Safety precautions and hotel updates must be communicated clearly to employees before the property is externally marketed. Whether it’s through the HR department or Executive Office, the operational changes and staff training are critical. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can include and of course are not limited to: wearing gloves and masks; repeated cleaning of public spaces, guestrooms and more; installation of plexi barriers, hand sanitizing stations, checking body temperatures. Departmental discussions with staff are necessary in all areas: housekeeping, front office, reservations, and more.
Will buffets no longer be the norm? Will we find breakfast consists of individually wrapped items such as sandwiches, muffins, and granola bars? Will hand sanitizing stations be placed in high-contact public areas such as the lobby or meetings rooms? We must inform employees and internal stakeholders first. Ownership/management should also refer to the appropriate State guidelines and coordinate for implementation. What’s key to point out here is that the operation implements modifications for COVID-19 first of course, and training must be in place before any marketing to external audiences.
2. On Property Signage / Reservations Department Scripting:
On-property information such as signage and posters are essential for communicating the hotel’s new safety policies to guests. Signage should be located at the main entrance, front desk, and high contact public areas that outline the property’s social distancing and mask policy. (A recent local “staycation” witnessed signage in restrooms communicating the importance of taking 20 seconds for hand washing). Ensure that when people call by telephone to connect with the front desk, PBX, reservations, or the concierge, that everyone is prepared to respond to all guest inquiries – consistently, compassionately, clearly and credibly. Frankly, all associates should be trained to speak to the specifics of the cleanliness and sanitation measures throughout the hotel.
3. The Sales Department:
There were likely some relationships hurt when clients requested monies back for their non-refundable deposits during the early weeks of pandemic. Hotels tried hard to keep these pieces of business on the books for cash flow. The sales department may need to keep the lines of communication open for relationship repair too. In other cases, the sales department was likely reaching out to clients since the beginning of the “shelter-in-place” orders – to connect, check in, and ask about clients’ well-being. Or, sales managers may have been furloughed our laid off, so there may not have been any client communications at all. Now it is time for that same sales managers to convey that the hotel is taking extra precautionary measures to ensure the hotel is as safe as possible for guests to help restore trust and confidence. Since many sales managers may have not been working, now is the a period for renewed contact.
- The Hotel Website:
Now that the internal communications is in place, time to focus on the digital footprint. It is interesting how this pandemic has flipped certain phenomena upside down. For example, in the last decade, the consumer trust of the proprietary website has waned as the reliance on user-generated content was found to be a more objective and credible resource. Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than marketing coming directly from an organization (CrowdRiff.com, 2018). Now, however, as hotels are just starting to reopen in some markets, and more eyes will certainly scrutinize website content for COVID best practices, the need for compassionate, comforting and clear communications directly from the hotel is critical.
What should be included on the website? How specific should the information be? As specific as necessary to demonstrate thoughtfulness and detail of precautions in place. For example:
Housekeeping and sanitation practices:
- What measures will now be in place to clean guestrooms?
- What measures for in-room and/or public (space) restrooms?
- Will hand sanitizing stations be available throughout the property?
- Will temperatures be checked – of employees, guests?
- Are rooms vacant for 24 hours between guest visits?
- How are we reducing contact between guests and employees or amongst employees?
Change in policies:
- Is there a new cancellation policy?
- Can guests check in on their phone?
- What other steps may be replaced or relaxed to encourage physical distancing?
Food and beverage options:
- Will meal options be modified? Temporarily?
- Will restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and/or dinner?
- As a value-add, can the hotel provide a list of restaurants nearby which deliver or provide a pick up option?
On-Site and Area Activities:
- Are on-site or town beaches open? Is there parking?
- Are local museums open? If not when will they open? Any restrictions for guests?
- Should activities/reservations/tickets be booked online and in advance?
- Can we provide a list of activities to do in the area?