What to Do When a Digital Marketing Disaster Strikes

Your website gets hacked, your hotel gets a brutal review, your new social media manager goes off the res – here’s what hospitality marketers need to do in five common situations where things go dreadfully wrong.

Every brand out there, inside the hospitality industry and out, is trying to establish the most positive digital footprint possible. That’s why DOMs allocate such hefty chunks of hospitality marketing budgets to SEO, digital content, and social strategy.

But sometimes, a digital catastrophe strikes. Your website is hacked, your hotel is portrayed in an unfavorable or downright embarrassing light, a brutal review shows up and decimates your previously pristine rating. When these sorts of digital disasters strike, it’s not only bad for your PR, but it’s also bad for your bottom line. Righting a digital wrong isn’t easy – online gaffes tend to live on forever. But with the right response and timing, you’ll survive. Here’s how.

The Digital Disaster: Your Site Got Hacked and Is Now Flagged By Google

Getting hacked is one of those heart-stopping moments – immediate action is required, because every second your site is down is time your hotel or destination is losing out on bookings and damaging brand standing.

Next Steps:

  1. Getting your site fully restored is your top priority. For this reason, having your developer on speed dial isn’t a bad idea. The developer will be able to quarantine your site to prevent more damage, assess the damage, find the vulnerability, address it, and restore your site to a previous version saved on its hosting server.
  2. Next, move on to scrubbing the dreaded and foreboding “This site may have been compromised” screen by requesting a review from Google.
  3. From here on out, follow best practices to reduce the likelihood of your site getting hacked. For instance, being vigilant about updating all software, removing outdated plugins, and making regular, automated backups of your site can save you a ton of time and a massive headache in the future.


The Digital Disaster: A Well-Intentioned Social Post Went Viral for All the Wrong Reasons

That Tweet you thought was just the right mixture of sass, satire, and trendiness just plunged you into a black hole of backlash.

Next Steps:

  1. Remove the offensive post.
  2. Issue an immediate and unequivocal apology that takes full responsibility.
  3. Respond to all negative feedback in a positive manner.
  4. Do not get defensive. Not one little bit. Repeat the apology over and over and over.


The Digital Disaster: A Former Employee/Past Guest/Journalist Wrote a Piece That’s Unflattering

Whether or not a story has merit isn’t the issue in the digital age. It’s about how much traction it’s getting online.

Next Steps:

  1. Because it’s not your content, you can’t take it down. But you can respond on your own site. Draft an immediate response that addresses the complaints and how your brand is going to address the issues. Be honest and sincere – don’t fill your response with corporate-ese and the kind of language that would make your own eyes roll.
  2. No shame in calling in the big dogs when the, er…fur…hits the fan. If your online presence is in jeopardy, now’s the time to call in someone who knows SEO inside out. Now is the time to make sure you’ve taken every step possible so that your website shows up first and gets the most clicks – not the hit piece.
  3. If the negative piece has gotten enough traction, it will start showing up in SERPs. To combat this, you’ll need to start producing positive content that will push the negative piece to the background. Also known as reverse SEO, this is tricky – you’ll need good content that doesn’t reference the negative incident, without looking manipulative. This is another time to call in a pro, like a content strategist or a PR professional.


The Digital Disaster: The New Social Media Intern Went Rogue with Your Profile

Even a well-established brand with a consistent messaging can get derailed by off-brand posts by someone with the wrong voice.

Next Steps:

  1. Remove the posts that aren’t in line with brand standards.
  2. Establish written social media brand guidelines that include examples of proper tone and voice, image standards, and appropriate content.
  3. Put a checks and balances system in place where nothing is posted to social platforms until it’s been approved. (This is where an editorial calendar for social media comes in handy.) A social platform tool, like Sprout, Buffer, or Hootsuite, will allow posts to be drafted for review, along with all the other scheduling, tracking, and analytics benefits.


The Digital Disaster: Someone Posted a Negative Review

You’ve been doing everything right and your posted content is fine, but someone with a bone to pick about your brand posted something negative – on your Facebook page’s wall, on a review site, in the comments of another brand’s social feed.

Next Steps:

  1. Respond as positively as possible, and be prepared to weather the storm.
  2. Assign the duty of monitoring social channels to someone who can respond promptly and effectively to nip negativity in the bud. It’s no longer enough to post content. If you aren’t utilizing social listening tools, then you’re probably missing opportunities to transform a bad review into a more positive interaction – before it goes viral.

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