Online Reputation Management for Hotels: To 2017 and Beyond

By Daniel E. Craig, Founder, Reknown

After over a decade of social media in the mainstream, the online reputation management function has reached a maturity level in the hotel industry. As we look to 2017 and beyond, we can draw from past experience to develop our future strategies.

The online reputation management function grew out of the explosive popularity of social media, which connected consumers, gave them a voice, and facilitated the exchange of purchase information and advice at scale. Today, most travelers check out online reviews as part of trip planning, and a hotel’s reputation can significantly impact its ability to attract business.

Social media has elevated the travel experience by obliging hotels to be more transparent and accountable. The old “bait and switch” tradition so common in travel marketing in the past is much riskier today. Hotels that fail to meet the expectations they set for guests face a backlash in bad reviews. Today, it’s about reality marketing: setting realistic expectations.

All types of social media tend to be lumped together, but it’s important to distinguish between online reviews, as found on TripAdvisor, Google, online travel agencies and other travel sites, and content shared on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

As a marketing channel, social networking sites are crowded and inefficient. On Twitter, it feels like everyone is talking and few people are listening. Facebook, having all but shut out brand posts from user news feeds, has become an advertising platform for hotels. Yet these channels can’t be ignored because they are used by travelers as a customer service channel to make inquiries with hotels and share feedback.

Hoteliers are easily distracted by the interactivity and instant gratification of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, whereas online reviews can be raw, bruising and disruptive. It’s easier to disregard or downplay online reviews as extreme, unfairly biased or fraudulent.

But online reviews must be the top priority, serving as both an operational tool for measuring guest satisfaction and guiding improvements and a marketing tool for building awareness and driving demand. Whereas people go to Facebook and Twitter to socialize and catch up on news, they go to Google, OTAs and TripAdvisor to plan trips, where reviews and ratings are listed alongside rates and booking options.  Read more »

Google Reviews: Ubiquitous, Powerful and Flawed

By Martin Soler and Daniel E. Craig

From TripAdvisor to Airbnb, the big players in online travel want to offer it all: booking capabilities, tours and activities, and traveler reviews. Google is no exception. But while Google has made significant moves to grow and improve its offerings in the travel sphere, it’s still finding its way in the realm of user reviews and ratings of local businesses.

Search a hotel on Google, and guest ratings from TripAdvisor, online travel agencies, Facebook and other review sources are populated in both paid and organic results. But as with its flights and hotels products, Google gives higher prominence to its own reviews, placing Google ratings just below paid results in mobile searches and at the top of the Knowledge Graph in desktop searches.

Earlier this year, Google confirmed that Google review count and score are factored into local search rankings. Google ratings are also populated throughout Maps, Trips and Destinations.

Given the ubiquity of Google reviews, their role in search rankings and their influence on consumer decisions, Google bears responsibility for ensuring the quality of its review product. But Google reviews are unsortable, inconsistent and unverified, and while the ratings of businesses are usually comparable to other review sources like TripAdvisor, Yelp and OTAs, a large proportion of Google reviews are anonymous, outdated and sparse in detail.

Google’s challenges with reviews started long ago. A few years ago, Google began scraping hotel reviews from TripAdvisor and Yelp without their consent and was hit with a lawsuit. Third-party reviews were pulled from business listings, but have since been reinstated for select businesses as “Reviews from the web.” Early this year, in an attempt to improve review volume and quality, Google began licensing reviews and review summaries for select hotels from TrustYou, which aggregates scores using reviews from across the web.

But Google, being Google, wants to own reviews. The value in reviews is unique to the search algorithm. In the early days of the internet, Google relied on backlinks as a measure of the importance of a website, among other factors. But as Google emerged as the unavoidable giant in the location business, backlinks were not enough. Reviews have become critical to the algorithm, indicating to Google the quality of the business and helping to ensure that it delivers optimal search results to users. And not only that, reviews are rich with keywords to feed the index.

Recent evolutions in Google’s applications suggest that Google is edging toward achieving its potential as a review behemoth. It is now easier than ever for users to write reviews. Thanks to GPS on mobile phones and Google Maps data, Google knows where users have been. Rather than require users to enter the business name and location, Google suggests places to review. Recently, Google started offering its Local Guides incentives to contribute reviews, including badges and Google Drive storage.  Read more »

Trump Hotels and the Reputation Problem

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

Given that so many people have a stake in the Trump brand, was it responsible or prudent for Trump to run for the presidency on such a contentious platform?

Early last year, when a recruiter asked if I was interested in putting my name forward for a soon-to-open position as general manager of Trump Hotel in Toronto, I was conflicted. Donald J. Trump hadn’t yet announced his presidential bid; he was merely an outspoken, controversial character. And his hotel company was fast gaining a reputation for exceptional hospitality.

The year prior, I had lunch at Trump New York with a friend who was an executive with Trump Hotels, and he had nothing but praise for Trump and his family. After lunch, he took me on a tour, and the property wasn’t over-the-top and garish, as I expected, but tastefully designed and relatively understated.

Nevertheless, I had enough distaste for Trump’s politics to know that I couldn’t work for him. But before I could decline the opportunity, the company decided I wasn’t “the right fit.”

It was no sweat for me. I didn’t want or need the job. But what about the thousands of employees who depend on the Trump brand for their livelihood and now find themselves caught in the cross hairs of an ugly presidential campaign?

Trump has lent his name to a range of products, including wines, clothing and golf resorts, but it’s perhaps the hotels that stand to suffer the most. Why? Because Trump’s campaign rhetoric contravenes the spirit of hospitality.  Read more »

Does It Really Pay to Book Direct?

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

These days, hoteliers talk a good game when trying to convince travelers to book directly. “Stop Clicking Around,” Hilton urges in a current campaign. “It Pays to Book Direct,” Marriott promises. “The Best Place to Book is Right Here,” proclaims Hyatt.

Most major hotel brands and many independent hotels now offer a best rate guarantee and incentives for direct bookings. It’s part of an industry-wide movement to change traveler behavior and reduce the amount of commissions hotels pay to online travel agencies. The underlying message of these campaigns is, “Trust us. Skip OTAs and book direct for the best deal.”

But can travelers really trust hotels to uphold this promise? As a traveler, time and again I’m dismayed to find better offers on OTAs than on hotel websites.

Most recently, while planning a five-night stay in New York, I found a great deal on for a five-star hotel, part of a well-known brand. Like a good ex-hotelier, I went to the hotel’s website to book direct, but the rates were much higher there, so I called the hotel. The reservations agent was reluctant to match the offer, questioned its validity, and asked me to email a screen shot. Eventually, she agreed to match the rate.  Read more »

Is your hotel safe from reputation threats?

In Reknown’s next free webinar with ReviewPro, we discuss how to protect your hotel’s online reputation from everything from a bad review to a full-blown social media crisis.

Topics include:

• What to do if a guest issue goes viral
• How to respond effectively to social media attacks
• What to do about detractors, trolls and review threats
• Brandjacking: how to stop OTAs from bidding on your hotel’s brand name
• Policies, procedures and prevention
• Strengthening your hotel’s online reputation

Join Fiona Gillen of ReviewPro and Daniel E. Craig of Reknown for this fun, interactive webinar, and gain insight and practical tips to help your hotel weather any social media storm.

Click here to register for this free one-hour webinar on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

If you miss the date, visit ReviewPro’s Resource Hub to view the webinar on demand.


Our Next Webinar Is About Taking Control of OTA Business

Webinar - Optimizing Your Hotel's OTA Strategy ReviewPro Reknown 2
As more hotel companies devise strategies for attracting direct business away from online travel agencies, one thing remains clear: OTAs will continue to play an important role in the channel mix.

In my next webinar with ReviewPro, Optimizing Your Hotel’s OTA Strategy, instead of the usual OTA-bashing being undertaken in the hotel industry, we’ll focus on how to get OTA business working for your hotel.

Topics include:

1. The Role of OTAs in Hotel Marketing

2. Costs of Acquisition & Channel Mix

3. Negotiating with OTAs

4. Optimizing Your OTA Presence

5. Converting OTA Guests to Direct Bookers

6. Managing Reviews on OTAs

Webinar - Optimizing Your Hotel's OTA Strategy ReviewPro Reknown

We’re excited to announce a panel of seasoned travel industry experts: Cindy Estis Green, CEO and Co-founder, Kalibri Labs; Max Starkov, President & CEO, HeBS Digital; and RJ Friedlander, Founder & CEO of ReviewPro. This is a rare opportunity to hear these respected industry veterans share their top tips and strategies.

Click here to register today.

Hope to see you there! If you miss it, you will be able to view the recorded webinar on demand by visiting ReviewPro’s Resource Hub.


Customer Relationship Management for Hotels

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Hotels - Reknown Travel Marketing
By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

In my next webinar with ReviewPro, we tackle a big, complex topic for hotels: Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

As more third parties get between your hotel and your guests, CRM provides opportunities to connect directly with guests before, during and after their stay and develop long-lasting, profitable relationships.

Customer Relationship Management can be defined as “Practices, strategies and technologies used by businesses to manage, analyze and improve customer interactions and experiences throughout the customer lifecycle.”

All too often, a frequent guest checks in to a hotel, and the front desk asks, “Have you stayed with us before?” With all the tools and data available to hotel staff today, there is no excuse for this to happen. Staff should have access to rich guest profiles, history and preferences. CRM is about recognizing your guests and catering to their individual needs.

Webinar - Best Practices is Customer Relationship Management for Hotels - Reknown Travel MarketingWe’re thrilled to have a panel of experts joining us for the webinar: Duane Hepditch, President and CEO of Guestfolio; Tim Sullivan, President of Cendyn/ONE; and Tim Towle, Co-founder and Director of Product Development at ReviewPro.

The webinar will be broadcast on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. To register—or to listen to the recording if you missed it—click here.


Introducing the Home-tel Experience

In the lead-up to the premiere of Hotel Hell, Gordon Ramsay visits James Corden’s new B&B and discovers the best and worst of the home-sharing trend.