PR expert advises regional tourism agencies to plan for crisis communication

Lisa-Ann Joseph -
Lisa-Ann Joseph -

You know how to market your beaches, festivals and food but do you know what to do and say if something goes wrong? The answer needs to be “yes” or you risk a “loss of trust” in your tourism product, advises Lisa-Ann Joseph, founder and managing director of Reputation Management Caribbean (RMC).

“My first discussion with clients is, are you prepared to actively communicate in the early stages of a crisis? Are you prepared to communicate in the early stage of a crisis with little facts available to you? Because these things matter in the early stages if you want to shape the narrative,” Joseph shared.

The RMC managing director was speaking recently during a panel she moderated the Public Relations and Crisis Communications Workshop at Caribbean Week 2024, held by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) at InterContinental New York Times Square in the US from June 16 to 21.

RMC is a public relations and crisis communications agency that has been actively serving the Caribbean for 16 years. Joseph, who specialises in guiding leaders and teams through communication challenges, noted that a poor response to unfortunate incidents in the past left some hotels and destinations scrambling to regain trust among customers and stakeholders alike.

“The reality of today’s world and with the speed of communication in the palm of our hands, the occurrence and severity of any issue can critically impact the reputation of an organisation and indeed the country on a regional and international scale. Not surprisingly, the impact can also create non-stop media coverage and public outcry. What can be shocking, however, is how often leaders and organisations are unprepared to control the reputational damage.”

CTO members also hear about the importance of deliberately putting in place and testing a personalised crisis communication plan, alongside their standard allocation of resources for operational matters and natural disaster recovery plans.

“This includes,” Joseph said, “the preparation of specific spokespeople who can immediately take appropriate action to update the public on an ongoing situation or recent incident. Otherwise, you’re putting your brand at enormous reputational risk, because when companies mishandle their public response to a crisis, they can be perceived as having mishandled their operational response, no matter how exceptional their brands may have been.”

Noting that “the foundational work done during the good times helps fortify the base when the crisis hits and helps prevent the impact of the damage from being disastrous,” Joseph strongly advised that “there needs to be a policy and principled position on how crises are dealt with from the top because leadership sets the personality and tone of the organisation in a crisis.”

Implementing said crisis communication plan involves using the tools and channels available to you, multiple times. Organisational messages should be spoken and then backed up in writing. Joseph also shared that when responding to an incident, always be sure to communicate what you do and don’t know, correct inaccuracies, and never speculate. In the absence of hard facts, communicate the process; what you are doing to get the facts.

Highlighting the principles of reputation management, Joseph said one should always “build and nurture trust because its value is at an all-time high, expect your every move and word to be public knowledge, plan for the challenges that social media brings while embracing the opportunities that it provides, earn your reputation; don’t create an image, and be true to your values when crisis strikes or suffer the consequences.”

Workshop attendees also heard from Jennifer Maguire, president of JMCPR – a travel and tourism-focused PR agency based in New York, Cessie Cerrato, founder of Cessie C. Communications – a PR and social media influencer marketing agency specialising in the lifestyle, beauty, travel, and hospitality sectors, and Marie "Driven" Theodore, co-founder of Playbook MG – a boutique firm specialising in entertainment, fashion, and lifestyle.

The above article was submitted by Reputation Management Caribbean.


"PR expert advises regional tourism agencies to plan for crisis communication"

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