Digital leadership – getting off the back foot to win online via Gareth Dunlop

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Interview Gareth Dunlop
2 Nov 2016

Digital leadership – getting off the back foot to win online via Gareth Dunlop

Like it or not, the digital revolution is here to stay and is only likely to increase and intensify in the coming months, years and decades. This includes social media, review websites, live video streaming, online influencer marketing, and augmented and virtual reality. Since the beginning of human history, people have had an intrinsic need to communicate and share information because we are inherently social animals. While this feature of humanity has not changed, the internet has dramatically intensified the possibilities for this.

Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have provided an amazing platform in which individuals, brands and organisations can reach a global audience. There are literally billions of people now using social media to have conversations with others living in different cities, countries and continents across the world. Many of these conversations are about the brands they use and this is very much the case in the world of travel and tourism. People love to recommend the companies they have travelled with, the restaurants they have eaten at or the resorts and hotels where they have stayed.

Of course these conversations are not always positive though, with many people criticising brands that they perceive to have treated them unfairly, sold them a substandard product or provided poor service. While an individual may have a relatively small online following, when they post something either positive or negative about a brand, this can have potentially huge effects as that post can be shared hundreds, thousands or even millions of times. When that individual is an influencer with a large following, the potential for their post to go viral is even greater. What some brands are still slow to catch onto is that what is said online matters in terms of real world reputation and profit.

In the following video Gareth Dunlop speaks to Steve Clarke about how your timeshare resort marketing team should take digital leadership by getting off the back foot to win online.

Steve: “We are here at RDO7 Conference at Pestana at Chelsea Bridge and we’ve just heard a marvelous speaker. It was a great session about the digital world. You know one of the things that I see and maybe you can help us with, is in the industry that these people are in, I see a lot of people want to take a kind of ostrich approach to social media and to the online side of things where they just want to duck any issues. What would you say about managing people’s reputation online?”

Gareth: “I think that there are a couple of things that are important to say. I think that number one: there is a conversation happening online right now about many of the brands that are represented in that room and if the decision is taken to stay out of those conversations I can accept that, if that has been a decision that has been proactively made. However if that decision has been made in the absence of a decision or it’s just a non decision, then what is happening right now is that there are people right now who are influential online making commentary about their brand and they are silent in the conversation. I can’t think of any other media environment, certainly not TV, certainly not radio, certainly not press or television debate. I can’t think of any other media environment where an organisation would choose to be silent. In any other media form the organisation wants to make sure their perspective is presented or considered. So silence is a strange response to that.”

“I think the other thing worth saying also is this is a quote from Verizon, the telecoms company in the States, from the Verizon chief marketing officer about five years ago when she was tasked with increasing and improving their online reputation. In her presentation that got her the job she said “Do you want to know how to improve our online reputation? We fix our bills, we make our bills more accurate for our customers, we make sure that when our customers crossover into Canada that they don’t get screwed on roaming charges, we make sure that everything that we do is transparent and that our service is good. So how do we fix our marketing and fix our online reputation, we do better business.”

“So if bad things are being said about a brand or an organization online, sometimes they are incorrect and need to be challenged, potentially online, but sometimes they are correct and the brand needs to say this is clear direction, clear insight from the market that our customers are telling us. We don’t cover the problems with sticking plasters, we fix the problem and we go back to the market and we tell them we have listened, we have fixed and here’s what we’ve done about it.”

Steve: “Brilliant, I think that will be an absolutely perfect message for RDO and this industry not to try and practice security by obscurity, don’t bury your head in the sand and think it will all go away. There are issues that need talking about, but also there are some great products and that’s what we should be talking about. People are having a great experience so thank you let’s see what we can do to improve your online reputation and to do that you gotta be in the game you’ve got to take action and you’ve got to be active.”

As Gareth mentions conversations will be happening online about your timeshare brand whether your brand decides to enter the conversation or not. If you either take a conscious decision or simply don’t make a decision at all to enter this conversation, your company is wasting a big opportunity to help shape the perception of your brand online. Without getting involved you are leaving the reputation on your brand online up to the mercy of those who decide to post about it.

Hopefully the posts will be positive in nature which is great advertising for your resort, but often when people post about a brand on social media, blogs or review websites it is for negative reasons. Sometimes the points made will be valid but often they may be exaggerated or completely unfounded. The main point is though, that it is vital that your timeshare resort gets involved in this conversation that is already taking place, rather than burying your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretending the conversation will all be positive or that it will all disappear and you can concentrate on traditional, safe marketing.

This is your chance for your resort to promote the positive things being posted, defend your brand against untrue criticism and listen to the negative points that are raised. Listening to your guests online is not a waste of time or failure but a brilliant opportunity to learn, improve and grow in order to build greater brand loyalty, increase guest satisfaction and grow profits. Remember, what happens online does not stay online, so make your brand voice heard!

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