March 27, 2020 Updates on COVID-19 / Corona Virus for the Vacation Rentals – How to handle PR
March 27, 2020 Updates on COVID-19 / Corona Virus updates for the Vacation Rentals / Hospitality from Micah Berg Founder & CEO of real https://realjoy.com/ https://www.thevru.com/ and Justin Jones Founder and CEO of https://imegonline.com/ In this update we we talk about how to hand PR. You can get FREE access to https://www.thevru.com/ by using discount code covid19 at checkout.
Watch video below:
Micah Berg 0:04
Hey everyone, welcome back Mike Berg here. CEO of real joy vacations and vacation rental university with Justin again, CEO of IMEG. And we’re here again with another daily we’re hoping to do these daily updates for vacation rental update, how are things affecting you guys what’s going on in the industry? We’re just trying to figure this out. And we just want to get together and between our research and what we’re talking to our clients about, and you know, just our own thoughts, as with the experience that we have between us just trying to give you guys some insight and some tips on how to navigate this because it is kind of a mess. And we know you’re probably in the fog of running your business on a day to day basis. And we just rather than you having to make all these decisions, we want to at least or something out there along with the other stuff you’re reading and listening to. So again, you know I had I kind of had
Justin Jones 1:00
to state this because if we go into stocks or real estate or any of that, you know, we’re not advising you to buy or sell or do any of that crazy stuff. We’re not telling you what to do with your employees. You know, this is just stuff that we’re thinking about. So do your own research. If you like what we’re talking about, you know, make your own determination and take your own actions. So, Justin, I, this one came up today, this happened to me. And also you had talked about it one of your clients calling you today freaking out. And so today’s topic is going to be about news and public relations or PR, so real joy, and you can look it up real joy vacations, Fox News, we got dinged by some lady who demanded a refund. And we said, hang on a second. You’re not checking in for 30 days. We’re only handling reservations for 21 days out. Give us a minute, we’ll call you back. Well, she calls fox news fox news reporter calls me saying Hey, you guys are a holes. You’re stealing money. Here’s some questions I have. We’re going to
Micah Berg 2:00
publicists report them under a deadline. What was yours? Justin, what was your client talking about?
Justin Jones 2:08
That she was given the option to reschedule for two years. She said she wanted a refund did a chargeback, then called to get the money back, they found out that she had done a charge back and said we don’t even have your money to give it back. She literally sent a letter to the governor, Department of Revenue. She called all four cities in the county, the mayor, she annihilated it on social media, all this other kind of stuff, demanding a refund that they can’t couldn’t even give, because the chargeback had already taken place.
Micah Berg 2:40
Justin Jones 2:41
So, but the lesson I think, because I just got off the phone with a client was that you and I had this conversation earlier. Like do you respond? Do you not respond? I think it’s good to be a part of the conversation and just state the facts like in your instance. We’re Working with reservations in 21 days, we thought it would be happy to talk. But we’re dealing with these first because the amount of call volume and then we’ll address your situation at that time.
Micah Berg 3:07
Unknown Speaker 3:08
yeah. She didn’t give us a chance. Exactly.
Micah Berg 3:11
Yeah. I mean, they want to fry you. So here’s the deal. The way I view this is, all of the news outlets are trying to sell ads and fill space and create content more now
Justin Jones 3:21
Micah Berg 3:23
yet, or to make hay while the sun shines, even though we’re all losing our shirts. And, you know, I guess the first tip that I would say, and we’ll go into, I want to go into like how I handled this and how it turned out, because I think my case in particular happened probably to be a long term benefit. I mean, it’s not bad to be in the news with your company name from just a PR perspective, or backlinks or some of those things. We’ll get into that. But
Justin Jones 3:50
you think that backlink
Micah Berg 3:52
I’m going to ask my marketing guy him out. Which I think is it’s you but we’ll throw susiana But now they’re they’re working on it. But I, you know, to me, rule number one is stay calm. It’s very easy, very easy to get emotional about this. I remember the first time I got a state sales tax audit. And they told me I owed them more money than I was going to make in the next two years. And it’s hard not to get emotional. And so now, I’m in the middle of figuring out how to handle my employees, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of chargebacks, cancellation requests, all this stuff. I didn’t even recognize this lady’s name when the reporter told me who it was, you know, because I’m not talking to everyone. And so it’s easy to get emotional. And so if you do anything, just stay on emotional what they want. What the reporter wants, that I kind of figured out, is if you give them an emotional response, it’s better news. If you’re neutral and you act professional, they’re probably not gonna have a ton of ammo and so they’ll write the report because they have to write Justin, you’ve seen a couple of these. But if you don’t give them a ton of ammo with your emotion, they’re gonna leave out a bunch of bad crap that you could say.
Justin Jones 5:08
Yeah. I was telling the, the client was like, we shouldn’t respond. And I was like, well, one I want to be a part of the narrative too is you have a really good response. Really good, balanced response. I think that people you want to stay with you and read your response and go, this lady’s being crazy. Yeah. But also what I was telling him was probably 30 to 40% of the time, if you come at them with a balanced response, and it starts to make sense. They drop the story. Yeah. Yeah. They didn’t drop yours. But there was a couple years ago, one of our larger markets had some fire situations and they’d reached out to me because I was the authority and the expert on it here during that time period, and three interviews, two of them never got published, because at the end of the conversation, there’s like, so there’s really not a problem. No, he’s like, right. Okay, thanks. Yes, we never aired so you Not only can you maybe even mitigate the story completely, but at least you have your voice and opinion in there. It’s just stating the facts.
Micah Berg 6:06
Yeah. So one. And I talked to Jim Owen about this, Jim, for y’all that don’t know, was the CEO of resort quest, back in the heyday when they had 23,000 properties. And he dealt with a lot of PR through some of their ups and downs. And one of the things he he recommended was exactly what you’re saying, is that neutral to no issue response. Another thing he said was, you can buy yourself some time or scare them off by demanding to know and you can’t do this like threatening, but you can say, Hey, who are you talking about? What’s the guest? Don’t give any answers? Who is this person and give me their name, maybe a reservation number, give me some details and I’ll look into it. Sometimes, the reporter could have overheard some stuff or even be making it up for the sake of story, and we’ll choose somebody else because they realize like, Oh, wait, this person’s not going to give me any emotion wants to solve the actual Problem with real data like, you know, it takes what I said about no emotion and what you said about making it a non issue and combines them.
Justin Jones 7:08
I think that the media is looking for the people you see in the UFO sightings in the tornado.
Micah Berg 7:14
Man to see that thing.
Justin Jones 7:16
That’s who they’re looking for. So don’t be that person.
Micah Berg 7:19
I was there. Where am I wearing that darn thing just flew right out. get my hair cut right there. Dang. Oh, knocked out my goat. Am I like my little tractor there. I’m
Justin Jones 7:28
looking for and we’ve had some clients who’ve responded that way to guest it’s like them versus the guests. I like to isolate. And it’s not us versus the person complaining. It’s us and then versus the facts. Right,
Micah Berg 7:43
right. Yeah, totally. And keep it factual and Boring. Boring. News doesn’t sell. Nobody’s going to read it and the report is going to find somebody else. So yep. You also don’t want to throw stones. So don’t throw stones like you were saying at the guest. Don’t throw stones at your competitor. Don’t say stuff like oh, everybody’s doing Because then now you’re kind of giving them something they could take as factual. If you say, oh, everybody’s doing it. One, they’re gonna say, well, you just agree that you’re doing it. And you just said everybody’s doing it. And you’re claiming effect. So be careful about saying blanket statements or defending yourself. Yep. And
Justin Jones 8:17
brevity is important.
Micah Berg 8:19
Very important. So I broke down. I called Jim and, and because he’s one of my friends and advisers, and I called him and said, Hey, here’s what they’re asking, what do you do? And he said, Well, are those things true? No. In the question was, do you have to have the coronavirus to cancel and get a refund? I was like, seriously? Of course not. That’s not that I don’t even know what that means. Do you are you refusing to move stays after the fiscal year 2020. That was actually undecided. I don’t know where they got that. We hadn’t decided that. And the other one is, she said You are going to keep her money no matter what. And obviously, that was hearsay. Nobody ever told her that. And so basically, my response and what got published was, those things are not true. Those are not our policies. That’s misinformation or misunderstood information. And then I told her what we’re actually doing. And this is what you should be doing. But something you can say is we’re only looking at issues or requests 20 years from today, through 21 days from today, or over the next 21 days. And every situation is completely unique. Every property is completely unique. Every owner is completely unique. And so they’re all being handled on a case by case basis. So tell that person or whomever you hear from to call us, and we will evaluate their situation on a case by case basis and determine the best solution for everyone. And I probably went too far, you know, I explained like, hey, we’ve got the guest, the homeowner, our employees and our company. To kind of balance and we’re trying to look for a win for everybody, and sometimes with the fastest This is moving patients is the best thing we can do. If we make a decision now, and somebody loses What if there’s a better scenario just a few days from now. And so that kind of, you know, it circumvented a really nasty article, they wrote the article, it was factual, you know, the guests to talk to us, we had told her that she could move or stay. But really, we weren’t going to help her right now, because she was past the 21 day mark. And we get back to her, you know, as soon as we could. And then, you know, a short version of what I just said, was published. And so at the end of the day, I got mentioned on fox news in a blog that’s going to be read by hopefully a bunch of people and we’re working on getting backlinks to it. So you know, nobody’s going to read it twice, that everybody’s probably going to forget about it. And it won’t show up in anything except real joy vacations on fox news as a backlink a year from now, so What other? So since you’re on the side of negative PR, Justin, in your experience as we kind of migrate through this, what are some positive PR things that you are doing for your clients right now?
Justin Jones 11:16
Yeah, I want to mention one thing about the negative first is if you don’t have any software to monitor right now, your reviews, monitor social media and monitor just the internet for your brand mentions. I’m recommend doing that. There’s a bunch of them out there. Even some free ones, Google alerts to monitor that. Not that that’s the best but it’s better than nothing. There. I set that up to watch. The other part is that to move to the positive, would be cause marketing is really impactful. Right now. You see a lot of big brands giving away millions and millions of dollars to help like, you know, yeah, Miller Lite or semi Miller was given away $10 million to bartenders to help with Cuz they’re laid off,
Micah Berg 12:01
I think around is going to have to give away the whole brewery they’re probably screwed when they’re done.
Justin Jones 12:07
So any type of cause marketing, if you have any to do that, to be giving back if you are like giving to we have some clients that are given to local food shelters and stuff, show that you’re giving back as well that this isn’t a time that even though you’re being impacted Travel and Tourism is one of the biggest impact sectors that you’re actually giving back if you are and then that may be something you want to share on social media and just show that you are giving back. Okay, just taking during this time of, you know, the craziness that people see of keeping deposits and they’re carrying people over but even
Micah Berg 12:44
marketing is on the rise right now. Even something as simple I mean, obviously we don’t have millions of dollars to giveaway but something simple. Our linen vendor called us and you know, they don’t have tons of money either, but they’re local to us here in Northwest Florida. His idea was Hey, you know, I had a ton of Boston buts that I was setting up to do a barbecue at some point in the future. I’m gonna roast a bunch of Boston butts get you and all my other clients on a delivery, rotation and drop it off to those people who are still having to work because you know, we still have people in our laundry facility phones, right? And so that’s not this like, you know, Jim’s making a ton of ventilators and all this stuff like whatever but man, I’ll tell you from a local perspective and and we’re still in that idea. We’re gonna employees stuff like that. They probably cost him two bucks a pound he might spend $2,000 you know, getting 1000 pounds of this stuff or whatever, and smoke it up over the weekend, deliver it to people and who knows he literally that linen company might be the only one left in the state of Florida. It’s just because of that reservation
Justin Jones 13:56
teams. A guest services are being beat up so bad right now. out, anybody that comes in with any positivity is going to be like, if you were to do that a month ago, that’s still nice, but right now it goes 10 times further.
Micah Berg 14:09
Oh, absolutely. They’re gonna remember that forever. Yep. And so if there’s something that you can do, maybe you’ve got guests that are quarantined in your units, like they’re self quarantining on vacation, or employees that are going through tougher times or something, you know, just think about that, like, maybe it’s not this huge giveaway or there’s homeless, you know, like, in my city in Destin, I’m on the board of a place called harvest house and we feed and clothe the homeless, it’s part of what we do well, we had to shut down because we have staff that are mean we can’t control the environment. And so now it’s getting a little more difficult to feed the homeless and provide them clothes because we have limited contact. So maybe you can do something for the homeless, right if you have extra food or maybe contact Jimmy John’s or some of these companies that are local franchisees and say, Hey, I know there’s a group of homeless people that are probably not getting helped right now because, you know, middle class people are starving, homeless are desperate. What can we do, I am not working or I have free time, I can take a delivery, whatever, and just put some stuff together. I’m not even saying you have to PR yourself to death. But you know, it’s it is something that might make you feel better, you might get picked up. And if nothing else, even if you don’t get mentioned in the news, it doesn’t help your brand. People will remember and you’re doing the right thing for your community. Before we wrap up, I just want to cover like it’s possible you don’t know what to do with guests, like you’re getting all these charge backs and refunds and all that sort of thing. So want to cover from an operational standpoint, what I recommend you do so chargebacks if people aren’t talking to you or they’re not following your process, and they’re just charging back, you have a signed rental agreement that states how this is supposed to go down, the credit card processors will have to adhere to that. I mean, at the end of the day If you’re charged back, or if your cancellation policy didn’t cover illness, and they turned down trip insurance, they can’t really charge it back. I mean, now they’re going to take the money out of your account. And you should move those funds to a different account or something. But fight that charge back. Don’t be afraid, don’t feel like a bad guy. If they’re not talking to you and working this out, you know, they’re choosing to be your enemy. And that’s terrible. Move stays within the same calendar year, or maybe turn it into a gift certificate that they can use anytime in the next couple of years. These people are still going to travel, they’re going to come back that will force them to bring that back to you and you’ll keep the money as a zero interest loan. For the time being, maybe, you know, you can’t afford to give that money to your own or because it’s just a gift certificate. And so it’s on, it’s up in the air, but you know that at least you’ve recovered some business, they’ll probably look at that property, those sort of things. Consider a cancellation fee. You know if their booking is in August, July, those sort of things. And then they still want to cancel even though they know it’s probably going to be fine by then charge them 15% or 20% cancel that covers most of your commission. And if it’s far out in the future, you’ll probably rebook and that’ll help you recover some of this stuff. So those are just general policies and then limit the window. I told you we were doing that limit the window you’re even operating within this thing changes every day. Sometimes several times a day each day feels like five Don’t try to solve problems 30 days out, solve them two weeks out, solve in one week out prioritize and get on this stuff you can and just communicate with people. That’s all you can do. Justin you got anything to add for wrap it up.
Justin Jones 17:43
One thing we did on a larger scale client that had a lot of volume that was key we ended up doing on two so I think it’s a solid solution is half have changed up your phone prompts and push them to the website, fill out forms. And the purpose of that is it really does expedite because everybody’s got their story and wants to argue. And it also helps with the staff because they’re not getting beat up so bad, Mark. Um, and we’ve seen that really, really work. So if you state your policies clearly on there and have them, you know, normally they’re everywhere. They’re not obscure, but like, when somebody visits your website right now, there’s no doubt what’s your policy? Yeah, right. We’re doing lightboxes put it in main navigation. Okay. And then this is how it works. And if you and then fill out a form to start the process, and then have people working on email responses to take this emotional conversation to the digital format, has helped with staff morale, fatigue, as well as getting the problem solved for the guest. You’re still gonna have some people call, but we’ve seen it cut down phone calls about 50 or 60%. And staff morale go up.
Micah Berg 18:55
That’s great. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense might be the best idea of the call. right there that that’s brilliant. I love it because I’m listening to my entire reservation staff and marketing staff just kidding hammered. And I was causing
Justin Jones 19:10
verbal abuse in many cases.
Micah Berg 19:13
Right? Yeah. Like we all forgot, we’re all Americans hear something, you know, we’re all in it together. It’s not like I’m any different than these people that are calling. I have my own issues on my other side instead of my employee. So that’d be kind of as a reminder, I’m Meg and Justin are offering vru for free for the next several months while we’re all sitting around. So check out www dot DVR you calm. That’s the v ru comm sign up for the Masters monthly and put in the code. Kovac 19 or CLB ID one nine in there and that’ll be free for you for the next three or four months.
Justin Jones 19:52
There’s a lot of good stuff in there. And the reason we wanted to open that up and help pay for that was because there’s so many problems people are having that maybe they Didn’t know were problems and they need solutions is a great place. There’s how many videos in there.
Micah Berg 20:05
There’s about 380 or so about 40 hours
Justin Jones 20:09
for everything from guest services to a lot of the stuff we’re talking about is in there that you can watch at your own leisure, and get some solutions to some problems you’re having right now and to help out in this so the whole industry comes back stronger than ever.
Micah Berg 20:23
Yeah. Hey, that we’re gonna wrap that up here. Stay tuned with us over the next few days, we’re going to cover things like how to lead through these issues, some of the unemployment stuff that’s being passed and how to navigate that. Just so much more stuff. We’re trying to keep them shorter so you can keep up with it every day. So stay tuned with us. We’ll see in a day or so you’ll be safe out there.