I recently ran across these conversation starters while skimming ehotelier forums:
"Dear Hospitality Professionals, Can anybody provide me with information what it is like to work for the Concorde El Salaam hotel in Cairo, Egypt?"
"Currently Negotiating salary for a GM role in Asia. Can you please advise what the salaries are like or I should expect for a 61 room 5 star resort/hotel with 2 F&B outlets?"
This got me thinking about how technology has changed the way conversations occur, and more importantly, how fast information is exchanged. Consider the amount of time it takes for a stranger (prospective guest, employee, vendor, etc.) to know almost everything about your company. Consider who these people are talking to, who they're listening to and how they're doing it. Whether the information they gather is true, half true, or completely false doesn't matter. What matters is that now more than ever, they're basing their decision to buy, donate or sell based on outsider information...the stuff you don't initiate. You might call this process a reality check...information they gather from others is stacked up against what you say. If it jives, you're okay. If not, well...you might not get the call.
Here's the point...You no longer have control of the information or the conversations about you. Your website, advertising and PR plan are quickly becoming a sideshow as people find new ways of learning the truth. Customer evangelism is no longer limited to backyard BBQ's and to the office watercooler. Rants and raves are now being amplified to all corners of the planet...and at lightening speed. As a result, you only have two choices...do nothing and hope things go in your favor...or, become an active participant, learn and educate.
So, are you part of the "new" conversation? Have you conducted a Google search on your firm or hotel to see who's linking to you? Better yet, do you have one automatically delivered to your in-box each morning? Do you regularly monitor sites like epinions and trip advisor? Do you watch the blogosphere via Technorati? Does your website have an RSS feed? If some of this sounds like a a foreign language, I understand. Most people don't read blogs, let alone write one. And, most people don't check multiple on-line forums before deciding to talk with you. But...some people do. And, those people talk to other people. And, as each day passes, the minority gets closer to being the majority. You get the picture. I'm not suggesting you become a computer hack. I'm challenging you to embrace the fact that conversations happen...with or without you, and now, in places you may never have imagined. Your task is to somehow get tuned-in, jump-in when it's appropriate, or better yet, start a new discussion altogether.
The bad news is that technology has made the conversation game much more complicated. The good news is that technology has leveled the playing field, giving everyone an equal opportunity to spread the word about their product, and engage their audience...it's cheaper and easier than ever. Now, you just need to acknowledge the power, and make use of the tools available.