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Kiran Kumar, former Director of PR & Marketing at Le Meridien Al Aqah
"We would highly recommend her and her company, Affinity PR, to anyone seeking a first class PR agency"
Hazel Gadsden, owner of Christmas Hall
"I have had the pleasure of working closely with Affinity PR during the past eight months, and simply could not be more pleased with their highly professional approach"
Arne Sivis General Manager, Al Maha a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
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Simon Smith, owner of Edge Hairdressing



Why Googling yourself is not vanity but business sanity

Posted on: 9th June 2018

Go on, Google yourself.  Pleasantly surprised?  There, you can relax.  If, on the other hand, you found something wince-worthy, here are some of Affinity PR’s processes and strategies for dealing with any negative comments and reviews:

  1. Has the negative comment happened because you made a genuine error (of judgement, expression, by inadvertent miscommunication of what you intended to convey, a context-changing typo or similar)?  If so, put it right immediately. Admit you made a mistake and are happy to have the opportunity to clarify what you really intended to say or do.  Ask them to get in touch with you offline, so you can talk through any outstanding queries.  Eating a little humble pie now can save an awful lot of PR problems later.  Then step away and let everyone cool down.                                        
  2. Did they make a genuine error?  Can you see from the context of their complaint that they are just misinformed?  Tactfully, give them the full picture (i.e. avoid any use of the word “actually” as that can come across as confrontational). This shows why putting in place official PR Response Solutions is a good idea, such as company Statements on various subjects, FAQ’s, Media Releases etc.   These essential components of any good Risk Assessment/ Business Continuity Planning process can buy time while you are dealing with any additional issues arising from the complaint. Ironically, this complaint may have helpfully alerted you to a much bigger problem that needs your immediate attention. Be measured in tone so it’s always professional but light (e.g. “We’re happy to clarify that our policy has always been X and you can read the full details here….”).     
  3. Meant every word and you’re ready to stand up and fight?  If you’ve received a personal attack online for expressing your strongly-held view or policy, decide how  important this subject is to you and to the overall success of your business.   If it’s an integral business value that underpins your entire commercial ethos, do defend your comments strongly with a professionally written PR response that explains why your company believes this.  If it’s not integral, consider whether this is the right battle to fight in the public domain, with people who might be sector influencers.  Entrepreneurs need to be adaptable and resilient, so acceptance that it’s ok for someone to disagree with you is part of that, provided that it’s expressed with courtesy and respect.   
  4. There are always exceptions and sometimes decisive action is required. Vindictive, hate-filled personal attacks (misogyny or racist, sexist, homophobic comments etc) cannot be tolerated, but it’s important that you are seen to explain why you are now going to remove the post and why you find it offensive (as sometimes prejudice really is caused by sheer ignorance).  Keep your responses brief, professional and calm, then hit “delete”.  Don’t “invite” someone to remove their own offensive posting  – that’s passive behaviour that is unlikely to yield a satisfactory outcome.  Always take decisive action yourself.
  5. Should you always delete someone’s negative post? No. You’re a grown up. Social media can be as fickle as it is fast-moving. Today’s massively heated debate may fizzle out tomorrow.   Keep a close eye on what’s happening but resist the temptation to pitch in without due consideration of all the facts, options and consequences.  If the situation rapidly deteriorates into an online cull of your reputation, one focused and timely response is better than lots of rapid-fire responses of the “Yes, but…”  variety. The latter risks looking defensive or just disorganised (i.e. as if you’re making up communications strategy “on the hoof”).  Sometimes, allowing an open debate to run its natural course without your input at all can be the best strategy.         
  6. Do you ignore the bad reviews and only acknowledge the good ones?  What’s best? Decide on the PR Response Strategy that fits with your overall brand values.  For example, part of the allure of high end brands is created by cultivating an air of exclusivity and mystique.  So their online content may need to be somewhat aloof in tone and one-way.   In this way they may be perceived as “above it all” (luxury brands often won’t allow any online engagement beyond a “Like” or “share” function).  The same strategy won’t work for family-friendly informal restaurants, though.  Their customers want chat and full engagement, written in a friendly tone.  Decide what approach best fits your brand and type of customers, then apply it consistently. 

Can PR’s keep bad stuff out of the media?   Our experienced reputation manager can certainly advise on all your best strategies to turn around a negative PR situation.  This may include specialist advice from a lawyer on the full consequences of any damage-limitation campaign. 

You can’t please everyone

Posted on: 8th March 2016

You can’t please everyone, right?  

Business owners often fail to act on customer feedback or complaints.  Some may even make a policy decision not to respond, dismissing such feedback or complaints with blithe comments like “You can´t please everyone”.  

Well no, perhaps you can’t.  But acknowledging your guests’ feedback demonstrates good manners and managerial pragmatism. By being seen to respond, you’re showing all of your customers (and potential new ones) that your firm does actually notice and care about the operational details of the business.  At the very least it shows you’re “on the ball” and not running an amateurish operation.  

If you’re in the tourism and hospitality sector, whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of review sites like Trip Advisor, Open Table and Google Local.  They have to be respected because of their huge influence with consumers researching where to stay, where to eat and drink, or what to see and do.    

Making a policy decision not to reply to any complaints or negative feedback online is business suicide these days.   Why wouldn’t you try to turn around a complaint situation, thus retaining both your good reputation and their custom?   To dismiss the need for any response is evidence of a worrying complacency.  How does this gradually kill off custom? Well, your customers feel you are a bit snooty and arrogant, in effect ignoring them (and British audiences in particular tend to dislike bad manners and show offs!).  

By ignoring your customer feedback you’re also missing some performance management and staff development gifts. It gives you that rare chance to see your business through the eyes of your customers.  You’ll spot the team members who are your best assets (the ones that guests commend, time and time again) so you can share that good practice with everyone in your team (or quickly rectify the bad practice!).   When you get those working examples into your Operational Handbook and Staff Training Programmes you’ll instantly add value to the quality of your staffing and your overall guest experience, often at no additional operational expense.  

Another way tourism and hospitality businesses can get helpful customer feedback is by commissioning a Mystery Shopper service.  It can be enlightening for everyone involved!  The outcomes are documented in comprehensive reports which acknowledge and share all the good practice, whilst highlighting where necessary changes must be made, and why. These reports name names (where possible), dates and times so that there is a process of accountability and helpful evidence is always provided to back up recommendations.

So next time you get a bad review or a customer complaint, instead of thinking “You can’t please everyone”, instead think of it as a gift that’s showing you how you could turn your business around and gain even more customers.  That’s not to say that we believe the customer is always right, but there are always ways of maintaining your composure and professionalism online whilst fighting back!  We lovethis example.

Restaurateurs need to polish the lily, not guild it

Posted on: 1st March 2016

There are some times when fine dining can be memorably satisfying.  Like when the whole team of waiting staff place each guest’s dish on the table at precisely the same moment; it’s like watching the best choreography in action, turning a necessary action that could be so mundane into a piece of seemingly effortless theatre. Like professional dancers, it can only look effortless after hours of practice and drilling.  Skilled hospitality professionals take great pride (and have quite a lot of fun) in making this process perfect, under the watchful eye of their Maitre d’ or, in the following case, their Executive Chef

Raindrops Keep Falling On Your Head? Invest in Branded Brollies!

Posted on: 27th August 2014

Umbrella ManufacturerHave you ever been offered a complimentary umbrella in your delegate pack? 

I recently attended a convention for social media video enthusiasts where those brollies could have lifted the mood and the satisfaction levels of the queuing delegates. Queuing delegates, you ask?  Well yes, we queued for two hours just to get in (apparently you “have to” expect to queue). Then we queued some more inside. 

When PR hype backfires, it goes very wrong indeed. 

It may at first feel like clever PR to fail to correct (evidently misinformed) messages and events hype flying around social media.  A bit of mystery in the FAQ’s on the event’s official website always stimulates interest, right? Nope. Not when it leads to thousands of ticket-buying delegates queuing for hours beneath a sudden lashing monsoon-like downpour, all because we “have to” get there early to avoid disappointment.   

With hindsight, I’m looking at those branded brollies from a completely fresh PR perspective.  

If only the organisers of this convention had factored into the marketing budget the rather modest costs of branded brollies (a sponsor would probably have bitten off their hands for the opportunity). Then they could have sent their events and PR people out into the monsoon to hand out brollies as gifts (or at least “on loan until you get inside”), thus shielding their queuing (and paying) guests.  

A convention or event is a happening, an interactive experience, which demands a proper welcome and some genuine hospitality from the hosts.

What an opportunity they missed for positive, feel-good PR and a great photo with a sea of branded brollies in a cheerful, Dunkirk Spirit” publicity shot!  Instead, they had to open the doors a bit early because of crowd surges and thousands of soggy-to-the-bone, tired, perilously chilled teenagers (and quite a few very miffed parents). 

There’s so much more to successful PR for events than just pushing out loads of Tweets about ticket sell-outs and VIP speakers,  then declaring it all a roaring success when all the delegates turn up.   

If you’re planning an event and want to know how to factor in all of the right PR touches, do get in touch via Next time you’re near New Oxford Street in London,  I thoroughly recommendhere for an interesting hour at this umbrella manufacturer’s showroom. 

Oh, and if that convention does need branded umbrellas for next year’s event, they can call Ben Lord atSpeedbird Promotions and he’ll help them out.  

Will everyone please shut up?

Posted on: 30th April 2013

This month I experienced one of the most enlightening, satisfying and powerful learning experiences of my career.  It didn’t happen following any business coaching epiphany.  Not in a $2000 ticket “motivational” event by an A-lister business speaker.

It came about in an unremarkable bookstore in a small town.  With an hour to kill until my next meeting, I looked at the busy coffee bar ahead and found I couldn’t quite face the noise, the underlying buzz of chat, the “tap tap tap” of phones and keyboards. A little quiet contemplation was required.

So I changed direction and walked into the bookstore opposite, glancing at the new titles.   A small book with a completely white cover nonchalantly commanded my attention.  It was the best-selling non-fiction title ” Quiet“, by American author Susan Cain.  I have subsequently watched her on You Tube giving a TED lecture on the same subject. She speaks rather quietly, doesn’t “power dress”, doesn’t move or gesticulate that much, doesn’t use any notes, yet she completely captures the imagination and interest of her audience for 10 minutes. Bill Gates named this TED lecture one of his favourites (he’s a classic introvert).

What I learned from reading “Quiet” is that a really close and thorough examination of the nature and power of introversion was long overdue.  The book explained what being quiet can look like to some extroverts, and how it feels to be naturally quiet, or to be labelled as such by others who don’t understand or value that quality.

I raced throught the first few chapters, chuckling (quietly, naturally) as I read that the author, too, was always baffled by the “charismatic leader” types that assumed power or center stage as our supposed role models for business success. Whilst most were undoubtedly super-wealthy (the main measurement of their “success”), many  appeared to be (from their PR, their interviews and autobiography content) selfish, egotistical, insensitive, dismissive, arrogant and occasionally, justawful human beings!

I learned that I’m what Susan Cain calls a “chatty introvert”. Thanks to her clear and helpful way of explaining my type of strengths and leisure preferences,  I am proud and happy to be associated with the “i” word.  She tells me I’m neither unsociable nor weird. It’s just that I need a little privacy in order to recharge my batteries every day and then I can be my most creative. I don’t like making decisions there and then.  I want a few minutes to think (ok, daydream), preferably alone.  I’m not sulking (heck, I’m in the business of being chatty and cheerful all of the time); I just need a bit of space (yes, physical space, so leave me alone and don’t place me in an open plan work-cubicle situation and then expect me to perform my best!). I learnt that my kind of solitude is healthy, good,valuable planning and thinking time.

“Quiet” explained why I’m happiest and most productive working from my home office. I always worried I had skipped the “ambition gene”; weren’t we all supposed to want to graduate upwards to an even bigger corporate office with lots of fancy stuff in it? Er, no. It also explains why I was so unhappy in a former business life, where my creativity was stifled by the loud volume of a partner who simply wouldn’t, couldn’t ever shut up and listen!

In the context of how I can apply this learning in future PR and reputation management strategies, it’s been revolutionary. Now, I’ll be seeking out quieter personalities who can make reasoned, credible and powerful expert commentators on behalf of clients.  Their clear and critical thinking will be the ultimate crisis-prevention tool! Hopefully there will be fewer “off-piste” spontaneous media communications to manage (extroverts so enjoy initiating tussles with the press or courting controversy but their PR always has to mop it up).   I’ll shy away from thinking the introverts “won’t like/won’t cope with” the pressure or spotlight.  At last, an opportunity for them to express their great ideas clearly, without interruption by the perpetual “me, me, me” of an Alpha-type!

I’ll leave you with this final quote of note (aha, I’ve also learned I’m a poet) from Susan Cain’s book. It’s illustrating the worrying point that many business leaders are unable to distinguish between great presentation skills and true leadership ability. A highly successful venture capitalist said to Susan Cain, “I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they are good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent.”  Hear, hear!