the ritz carlton, new orleans

Ed: seeing as how it’s “holiday week” here in the U.S., we decided to give the WUL team a bit of a break. So we’re re-running, with relevant updates, some older posts … not necessarily the ones that got huge numbers of comments, but the ones that are personal favorites of the team.

Today’s pick – a post I wrote in May on why public relations is everyone’s business – comes from Kirk Hazlett. He said, “This has been my mantra for more than 40 years in PR… started in the Air Force and continues to this day.”

If you’ve ever stayed at any Ritz-Carlton hotel, you know just how terrific they are.

I was reminded of this when I did just that not so long ago in New Orleans (that’s where PRSA’s Counselors Academy took place), and oh…

The room!

The bathroom! They had Q-tips (most hotels don’t)!

The comfy couches in the lounge!

The bellhop who got me a taxi ahead of 15 other people in line (he didn’t tell me this, the taxi driver did).

The server who, after seeing I was balancing my breakfast plate on my lap (I didn’t want him to set a table when I’d be leaving in five minutes), insisted on pulling up a chair so that I could eat more comfortably!

These are all great employees of the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans, but perhaps the one who touched me the most was a Most Delightful Old Gentleman – perhaps on the Bell Desk? I don’t know.

But it was his job (I assume) to make guests feel welcome and basically help them into (and out of) the elevators.

And if you’ve been to the RCNO, you know that the elevators are pretty confusing, because there’s one bank for those going up to the rooms, one to go down to meeting levels and the street, and to top it all off, they arrive so quickly, that sometimes the doors open and close before you’ve even made it in, because you didn’t know which one had arrived on your level.

Aargh. But anyhoo.

MDOG was just so sweet. Any time he saw me (or anyone), he’d inquire most gallantly as to how we were.

Then, after figuring out whether we were going down or up, he’d escort us to that specific elevator, make sure we were safely planted inside, and then wish us, “Now you have a good day, Miss.”

I always replied, “Thanks so much, and you too.” To which response I received a beaming smile and “thank you!”

What really struck me about MDOG, as well as all the other wonderful staff of the RCNO, was how much pride they took in their jobs. If there are issues they face – and I imagine there are, it wouldn’t be human not to – they certainly didn’t display that to guests.

What terrific public relations ambassadors they are for the hotel.

I mean, think about it.

The RC’s named PR staff does a great job, I’m sure. The RC is a top-notch hotel chain, and I imagine they get terrific media placements, et al.

But they are not front facing. They are not the ones meeting, or dealing with, guests on a day-to-day basis. They are hidden genies, and I’m not joking when I say they are probably genies, because no one knows better than I do just how tough a job “PR” really is.

The people I encountered every day, though… they are front facing.

Their job titles might be “Bell Hop,” or “Concierge,” or “Valet,” or “MDOG,” but you know what they are doing, when they do well at their jobs?

Public Relations.

They are engaging in actions that leave a better, or elevate an already good, impression of the Ritz Carlton brand on the hotel’s guests.

So guess which hotel I – as a guest aka consumer – will recommend to friends, or people who ask for recommendations, when it comes to hotels in New Orleans?

No, you don’t get a prize for guessing right. I set it up for you.

This is a small lesson, but it’s a huge lesson at the same time.

Employees may have specific job functions to perform, but how they perform those functions add value to – or detract from – your brand.

Think back to the interactions you’ve had with a brand over the last month. Did you meet the “PR people”?

Highly unlikely.

But it is highly likely that you interacted with salespeople, customer service, in flight crew, train conductors, wait staff… the list goes on.

None of these people have “public relations” in their job description.

Every single one of these people performs a critical public relations function for their employer(s) – to give customers (consumers) the best possible experience of the brand, so that they come back for more.

Public relations. It’s everyone’s business these days.

And it is in knowing – and accepting – that it’s everyone’s business, that we as PR professionals can do what our discipline asks us to do… to build, and maintain, beneficial relationships with our publics for our brands, organizations, employers.

I’ve had my say; how about you?

Image: Reading Tom via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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