As communication and media have increased in type and complexity, traditional disciplines like Public Relations are faced with the reality of a new set of rules. Where once all a business had to worry about was television, radio, and print, now there’s the Internet and social media to contend with in addition.

With the Internet, the old maxim of “Everyone’s a critic!” becomes truer than ever. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and the ability to string words together coherently (though there are plenty of examples out there that cast doubt on that third qualification!), and suddenly you can become a reviewer, posting your experiences online for all to read, for better or for worse.

So how does the hospitality industry navigate these new, churning waters?

New technology means new ways of conducting public relations in the hospitality industry

What Is Public Relations?
Let’s start with the fundamentals here. Public relations is the art of maintaining one’s image and reputation, with the intent of swaying people to understand and support you, and thereby influencing their opinions and behavior.

In other words, PR makes you look good, makes people like you, and makes people act towards you in the manner you want them to. For a business, that means having people frequent it, for instance.

Social Media Rewrites The Rules
Once upon a time, public relations manipulated the three traditional media into giving their clients the coverage they wanted, in order to fulfill the above-mentioned PR goals. Nowadays, the Internet has taken media and split it up into countless little islands or fiefdoms (and in some extreme cases, insane delusional dictatorships), each with its own voice and target audience.

And yet, according to a recent Nielsen survey, editorial (e.g. print) coverage is the fourth most trusted ad source. Clearly, old media’s day isn’t over yet, and there needs to be a balance between the traditional and the modern.

Getting A Social Media Presence
Whether it’s a bar, restaurant, club, or hotel, having not only a website but also a presence on social networks such as Facebook is key. This lets people sign up or like a business’ page, and opens them up to receiving updated information of interest.

By having a website and social network pages (which also link to each other!), a hospitality business has the perfect platform to launch all manner of public relations campaigns, be it promotions, giveaways, or contests. It’s also a good way to keep people informed on new changes; perhaps a hotel has opened a new restaurant, or a casino is featuring a special guest for entertainment.

Closer Contact With Customers
Thanks to social media, a disgruntled hotel or restaurant guest can vent their outrage out onto the Internet with reckless abandon. Hospitality industries that assign someone (perhaps from Marketing or PR proper?) to monitor social networks can find these problems and reach out to the offended party in the hopes of not only making things right, but also of changing their opinion of the establishment and consequently giving a more favorable public review.

This may sound like a lot of work, but this is the reality that businesses find themselves in today. A quick look, maybe twice a day, on various social networks to see what’s being said can really head off problems and bring businesses closer to customers, which in turn increases the likelihood of repeat visits.

But this close contact is not only good for dealing with complaints, but also for adding a personal dimension to communications between host and guest. Some hotel chains use Twitter as a virtual concierge, for instance.

Changing With The Times
Social media has opened up all new possibilities. You can become a hospitality industry innovator like Andrew Sasson by embracing the new technology while still maintaining ties with the traditional ways. Hospitality is at its best when there’s more of a human touch. With social media, that degree of warmth can be met with less effort than you think.

This post was contributed by John Terra who has been a freelance writer since 1985. He is a staunch believer in the power of social media to bring people together.

Photo Credit: wbeem

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