Arizona & Its Hotel Industry Working to Enhance PR

Upon the announcement of its new immigration law a couple of months ago, Arizona incurred a firestorm from opponents, media and protestors that burned hotter than … Arizona in July. But now, the Grand Canyon State is working to rework its image via a new PR campaign partially funded by a hotel trade association. USA Today writes:

Arizona plans to spend $250,000 on a public relations campaign to counter concerns about its controversial, new immigration law and promote itself as "a safe and welcoming destination." The state’s hotel trade group will add another $30,000 to the effort, according to the Associated Press.

The PR campaign is one of the recommendations presented publicly yesterday by a tourism task force appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer to address the state’s tourism industry, the AP reports. The findings came as the ACLU on Wednesday issued "travel alerts" to Arizona visitors in advance of the Fourth of July weekend to inform travelers of their rights if stopped by police.

The task force was charged with finding ways to aid Arizona’s tourism industry as it grapples with fallout from the law that Brewer signed in April, the article says. The law is set to take affect on July 29 barring any legal action. The law has sparked boycotts and outright travel bans from cities large and small, school districts and other municipal bodies at a time when travel is gradually starting to rebound from a two-year downturn.

The state should hire a PR firm "to help manage the existing dialogue and clarify the facts" regarding the immigration law, the AP article says. That effort could include getting into editorials into U.S. newspapers and conducting interviews in key visitor markets.

Brewer two weeks ago approved the recommendations, which paves the way for state agencies and the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association to carry them out, the story says. The story did not detail what role the Arizona hotel group will play besides making a financial donation.

The recommendations also direct Arizona to "change the tone of the dialogue to reflect the true implications and tangible effects that boycotts have on the lives and families on the most vulnerable tourism employees," the AP reports.

The law requires that police enforce another law to ask people about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the people are in the USA illegally, the story says.

Twitter is the New Twitter: Grows 131% in March

Ok, I’m getting as sick of writing about Twitter as you are of reading about it, but this is interesting: illustrates the shocking pace at which Twitter use is growing. Also, you’ll be happy to know Oprah is now using the microblogging technology, so its existence is officially validated:

Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, according to research firm ComScore, which pegged the site’s visitors at 9.3 million, up from 4.3 million in February. Twitter drew increased attention recently over rumors of a possible Google acquisition. A ComScore analyst attributes a substantial portion of Twitter’s growth to increased media attention.

Twitter grew 131 percent in March 2009, with its total site visitors cresting at 9.3 million, up from 4.3 million in February.

The microblogging site, which lets its users post "tweets" of 140 characters or less on any particular topic, has been embraced by general users and the enterprise as a supple social networking tool. Twitter has been adding new features, and befitting its increased profile, has been rumored as a Google acquisition target. 

"One interesting theory alluded to by several people in last week’s discussion was that the mainstream media attention on Twitter is really helping fuel its growth," Andrew Lipsman, an analyst with ComScore, wrote in a corporate blog posting on April 15. "And there may certainly be some merit to that. It seems you can’t get through a typical newscast anymore without some mention of Twitter."

Lipsman cited Newt Gingrich’s use of Twitter to comment on President Obama’s handling of the Somali pirate crisis as an example of how far the site has penetrated into both daily life and the hourly mass-media stream. He suggested that Twitter is changing the way "our entire news ecosystem operates."

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State Legislators Cope with Email Volume; Texas Congressman Stays in Touch Using Twitter

The Thicket blog recently took a look at how state legislators are dealing with email volume. The writer explains some of the responses were encouraging, while some likely won’t be received too well by constituents.

Some of the legislators who have their own staff had maladroit messages like, "I won’t be able to respond to your message myself, but one of my staff will get back to you" or, perhaps worse, the automated message came from a staff person, not the legislator, in the first place.  Staff may in fact be the ones who respond, but there are more graceful ways to explain this to constituents.  Announcing in advance that staff will respond seems gratuitous at best and patronizing at worst.

While some have been negotiating the world of email, folks like Congressman John Culberson of Texas have been pioneering constituent relations by using Twitter — the latest and greatest way to communicate using "micro-blogging." Check out Culberson’s Twitter feed here.

Customer Service – Yeah, It’s That Easy

Thousands of dollars, probably millions, have been spent on books, tapes and seminars looking for the secret of customer service. I will spell it out here. The price: A few moments of time now, followed by several years of practice.

Satisfying our basic need for acronyms, I give you ACE: Attitude, Communication, Empowerment.

Attitude:  A customer service representative needs to be predisposed to wanting to help. Their job is one of concierge, docent, problem solver, sounding board and an amalgamation of several other traits. This person cannot take anything personal, but must personalize the customer and care for them as a person. This is a hard balance to strike and not all of us are capable of it. 

Communication:  There is such a thing as too much information. There is no such thing as too much communication. Return calls, return e-mails – answer the phone when it rings. Sounds simple, because it is. Never wait to deliver bad news. Tell the customer you still don’t have the complete answer, let them know what you do know. Never avoid a chance to talk to someone.

Empowerment:  The customer service representative needs to be able to institute solutions. There cannot be any hiding behind policy. Policies are guiding lights, not the path. All customers are unique. Their situations are unique. Your staff must be able to respond accordingly and quickly. 

There you have it, for free. The true price lies in the implementation.