Villa Parade didn’t blame social media, but a mix of unforeseeable actions which snowballed and created an impossible situation.
A recent news piece appeared in an online travel site stating that Villa Parade blamed social media (TripAdvisor) for its demise. But according to Villa Parade its social media strategy helped expand its customer base and increase its consumer reach, whilst helping to control the flow of information and fully support its customer service programme during the travel firm’s recent legal battles.
Jason Kelly, consultant at brand relations agency, (…tTj) and Villa Parade’s former media advisor states: “When dealing with legal processes only so much information can be given at a certain time, and the process has to be tightly regulated to ensure the letter of the law is followed precisely in the interest of all parties concerned. This is because the law is very black and white and is not subject to emotion. Social media platforms however, such as TripAdvisor, can be open to emotive comments that are not always accurate or fair.
“Villa Parade’s own social media strategy however was tightly controlled to ensure all comments were fair and accurate – this strategy ensured complete transparency at all times, whilst also ensuring legal considerations were followed in accordance with the injunction which Villa Parade had successfully obtained against Travelopo. This strategy was in strict accordance with Villa Parade’s directors’ wishes for complete honestly and openness.
“In my view the comments posted on TripAdvisor directly fuelled rumors and speculations, worsening Villa Parade’s situation. And although TripAdvisor does work to ensure all statements are fair and honest, their reactions to removing comments that were deemed untrue and inaccurate were not immediate – adding fuel to the fire and helping to create a snowball effect.
“Villa Parade’s own social media channels were used to communicate updates and engage with customers and stakeholders in line with its own customer service policy, whilst endearing to legal proceedings. In fact Villa Parade’s social media channels became additional customer service platforms, helping the company deal with over 196 conversations and more than 900 comments and requests for information in only a few days, on top of the thousands of calls and emails the company received from the travel industry and directly from customers. If Villa Parade’s own Social Issue Programme wasn’t affective then those 196 conversions and over 900 comments would have been posted elsewhere, making each one harder to react too. But because Villa Parade’s social media strategy was one of openness and transparency, it helped them engage with their audiences, including stakeholders and customers, and controlled a lot of negative conversations being posted online, whilst helping Villa Parade react appropriately and inline with legal requirements at the time.”
It is true that social media provides consumers with a platform to voice their opinions – good, bad or untrue. But this is why companies need to embrace social media and other owned media as a corporate communications tool in order to help communicate their messages and engage with their consumers and stakeholders.
Refusing to use social media in todays, and tomorrow’s business communication world is the same as refusing to use a telephone or email. You have to embrace it and work with it.“
A spokesperson for Villa Parade stated: “Villa Parade found itself in an unforeseeable situation due to a number of business issues, which were out of its control. And because all those issues came together at the same time, the company found itself fighting on all fronts and against impossible odds. The reactions on TripAdvisor and a sensationalized news piece that appeared in the media only impacted on what was already a difficult situation.”
Villa Parade’s social reach had extended to over 24,000 and the company invested heavenly in branding and a mix of online an offline programmes, which helped it compete with its larger competitors.
Villa Parade spent the last six years establishing and building its marketing and communications mix, which developed a huge audience reach. Within its industry, Villa Parade was at the forefront of utilising various communications and marketing platforms, working with a carefully selected group of traditional and digital creative agencies to help it build up its rapidly growing customer base. This process, inline with other marking and business processes enabled the company to expand and introduce new offerings, including a luxury brand and new resorts across the Mediterranean and Florida.
Services adopted by Villa Parade included: brand relations, public relations and social relations programmes, using a comprehensive mix, including reach marketing, media relations, direct marketing and SEO strategies.