Thursday, 21 December 2017

Magnificence of Social Media!

This is what I call the good, bankable power of Social Media - inviting stimulating engagement, furthering knowledge, endorsing professional nous and acknowledging interaction.

Well played LinkedIn! Now to see Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, youTube, Pinterest take the game of healthy interaction up a few notches and pave it soundly for 2018!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

We brazen, unabashed Millennial folk!

We have become a shameless, self-aggrandizing, self-promoting global society.

Otherwise, how do you explain that we, unabashedly, confer such lofty titles on ourselves - Visionary, Clairvoyant, Maven, Global Leader, Evangelist and so on!

Up until now when the millennials are beginning to ride over, it was up to others to call us thus!

I am waiting for the time, when we will begin to label ourselves as Moses, Noah, Jesus, Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesha of Business, the Chanakya of Strategy!!

What do you think?

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Monday, 18 December 2017

How to Become a PR Wizard! PR 101 (Part 2)

As the PR Head of your Organization, you have to learn to be a master juggler, adept at handling a large assemblage of roles. You must be skilled at walking the tight rope between all the relevant publics through which you must deftly manoeuvre your brand message. You must deliver the optimal performance on each of the multitudinous functions that are the subsets of your larger responsibility.

You have to be a fine and respected Spokesperson for your Brand and know how to handle a crisis situation with utmost attention and finesse. The role of a PR professional is cross-dimensional, multifarious and with new challenges springing up all in a day’s work.

In Part 1 of this theme, we looked at fifteen of the essential skills that you must equip yourself with in order to be a top-notch PR player. Let us look at the remaining significant traits in the second Part -

1. Do not be a fish in the pond, be a whale in an ocean.

Grow your horizon beyond the local and national and benchmark your work and yourself internationally. Better still, be Glocal with local sensibilities and a global perspective.

2. Develop healthy and productive relationships. 

Develop sound and meaningful relationships with a wide array of publics – ranging from Government representatives, diplomats, artists and performers to Travel & Tourism industry folk, eminent community people and hotel guests, the last being the most important.

Nurture an outstanding rapport with your colleagues – a lot of them end up being your media talent and ably assist you in excellent Reputation Management and in the successful representation of the Brand Identity.

3. Stay keen, curious, excited and hungry for knowledge and information.

A piqued interest in anything new or offbeat or out of the ordinary makes you a fascinating story-teller and a dynamic PR professional who is always loaded with rich nuggets to share.

It could be the exquisite lobby flower arrangement, the uniquely artisanal products at the Spa, the enchanting towel origami in the rooms, the bespoke wine bottled specially for the hotel, range of patisserie inimitably offered by your Pastry Shop, the Christmas decorations that set you apart, the distinctive and latest fleet of limousines – the options are endless and exciting. 

4. You must develop a keen inclination towards Travel.

It offers education like no other and is one of finest teachers of all. It makes you a global professional who can fit into international and multicultural work milieu with ease.

It exposes you to the fascinating cultures and people from around the world. You get to see and learn firsthand a lot of practices that your international hotel adheres to. Finally, Travel turns you into an interesting person and a great conversationalist.

5. Read up on issues of General importance.

You should have a cultivated interest in a wide range of topics and must make a habit of reading up on them. One of my favourite bosses, and the second mentor in my corporate career, used to nudge us to read extensively. He himself would begin his day by giving a long glance to the finance and business sections of the morning papers and then proceed to read hospitality newsletters as and when his time would permit.

One morning, he told us, he had kept busy reading up on the automobile industry and the latest developments in that sector. At lunch,  that afternoon, with the Managing Director of an auto major, he managed to build a good connection by showing up as an interested, informed and intelligent hotelier who was on the same page as the important guest and could identify with the guest’s focus and demands with ease.

6. The business of Entertaining.

Half of your work time will be spent in entertaining. Half of the other half will go in working closely with the F&B department. Hence, it will make a lot of sense to develop a strong affinity for food as a stream of work along with the appreciation of good food and wine.

This will help you hold your own at Menu launches and Wine dinners, be a knowledgeable conduit between the F&B colleagues and the media, not look like a greenhorn or a misfit and bring high value to those PR, Sales and Brand management strategies that revolve around food and beverage.

7. You must hone your skill in Public Speaking.

As a PR representative of your Company, there will be zillion platforms where you will have to wield the mike and come out looking like a Pro.

From internal meetings and PR presentations to charity balls, community events and webinars; there will be so many occasions for you to get on the podium and speak, that it will do you well to practice public speaking on a regular basis.

8. Develop an expertise in Event Management.

As a Hotel PR person, this chunk of responsibility falls into your lap. The fun and exciting part is that you get to handle a big bag of events ranging from fashion shows, art exhibitions, supper theatre to piano concerts, symphony orchestra and sporting tournaments.

9. Work and web well with the Significant Others at Work.

You must work with the General Manager’s Office and the HR Department to develop a strong strategy based on Corporate Social Responsibility.

Companies have been known to endorse Government-led projects in earmarked villages, sponsor environment-focussed activities, offer a scholarship to children with special needs, support a community developed around sustainability and green belt model.

There is a lot you can do, as payback to the Society and you must partake of this privilege. After all, a Company’s real worth, value and success is truly measured by what it contributes to the Society in which it thrives.

10. Crisis Management.

The role of a hotel PR is extremely pertinent and influential for the eclectic range of crises you are called to handle.

Crisis Handling and Issues Management are the two extremely important areas of responsibility in your strategic role.

At hotels it could range from a simple bad review of a food festival to the dramatic unnatural death on the premises; from the repercussions of a bad speech made by the head honcho to a run-in with the law on account of a questionable activity of a suspicious guest. The gamut is wide and could come with no precedent. 

Therefore, you must really learn the ropes of handling different kinds of crises, with tutored calm and maturity.

11. Communicating with Internal Publics.

Pay a lot of heed to Internal communications because the internal publics are an immensely significant set of publics.

Make sure that you are as focussed on sharing the Company news with the employee base as you are with the media.

Work hand in glove with HR on employee events and workshops. Step out and provide media training to an extended set of people, thereby developing an army of skillful and well-versed brand ambassadors.

12. Diversity in Daily Work.

With such diversity in your daily duties and a rich mixed plate of responsibilities, there are a set of personal qualities and attributes that will help you get head and stay on top of your game.

Some of the important ones are - attention to detail, promptness in responses, capacity to handle stress, ability to deliver on short notice, a talent for genuinely liking people and building relationships, being likable yourself and easy to get along with a varied set of people, multi-tasking, keeping calm under pressure and being passionate about what you do.

If you develop each of the above skills/traits, then you will have less to rely on sham, superficiality and spin; all of which that have given PR a bad name.

A truly qualified PR professional brings respect to their own self, their organization and their area of competence; founding their career on a bedrock of sound PR fundamentals, performance best practices and work ethics.


Picture courtesy - Google Images

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Five Simple Strategies to beat the Competition in 2018 and beyond!

Hospitality is a dynamic business that runs double speed just to stay firmly in place. It is, forever, under the influence of forces that urge it to embrace change more frequently than most other industries. First of all, it is the customer base that demands change or updation continually; then the other hotels in the region or elsewhere that push you to look within and finally the times that tend to get dated faster than you can plan and implement.

The Bottom line is almost always the plank from which business strategies spring up and from where Company Vision gets its focus. And to keep a healthy bottom line, hotel companies must always endeavour to retain their leading position (if they are market leaders; otherwise aspire to be one), increase their market share and always stay ahead of their Competition.

With 2018 close on our heels, a lot of the industry mavens and trend forecasters are working overtime to predict what will be the new developments, what will last and what will be thrown into the relics of history. Yet, it is a given that the virtues that have stood the test of time continue to guide brand growth and brand relevance.
Below follow five basic and essential steps to keep you ahead of your game, regardless of your geopolitical, cultural, time-driven coercions – 

1. TQC - Total Quality Control

This is what separates the grain from the chaff. Your quality consciousness is one singularly important facet that puts you on top of the heap, regardless of your size, location, features or specialty.

I am completely swept off by hotels that do not drop the ball in the faultless crustiness and chewiness of breads in the morning baskets, in the perfect grainy texture of their mustard, the freshness of ALL fruits and cheese and cold cuts on the vast buffets, the crispness of their fresh smelling, spotless linen, the perfect point on which their temperature control rests, the poise and the pleasant disposition of the immaculately trained staff, the little thoughtful gestures exhibited at welcome and turndown. I appreciate these much more than the design, the period or modern furniture, the art deco objets d’art, the number of awards showed off in their press gallery.

I am of the strong contention that if hotels and the big guns that run them can ensure quality control in the tiniest of facets then they have definitely got the big picture right. Those who aim for the surface sheen, the outwardly, the meatier in-your-eye things and skim over the finer aspects are quite missing the point.

2. Competition Check

Those of us in Public Relations and Sales & Marketing have the privilege of enjoying a great perk at least on the upside; until it comes down to hard work and serious study that is tagged to it. Great because it entails wining and dining at competition hotels! The somewhat downside because it involves checking out the menu, the ambience, the rest of the accoutrements that form part of fine dining (this does take away the gay abandon with which we’d rather like to wine and dine), a kind of studious approach that the exercise lends to an evening we would wish to be carefree and the serious report that we must fill in and submit the next morning. Like us, our brethren from the Food & Beverage and Kitchens brigade are also extended ample opportunity within the month to dine several times at the fabulous places housed in other hotels in the city.

Then there is the new hotel FAM that we go for to familiarize ourselves with the latest in town that will fight tooth and nail with us for the share of business our geographical location attracts.

I remember on a sabbatical to the United States while working with a hotel chain, that was a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, I was encouraged by my boss to approach the other member hotels in the cities I was visiting across the east and west coast and seek a stay in order to check out their brand and product.

Like with most other products – durable, FMCG, experiential, ethereal – it will always be imperative to know what and how well the Competition is doing. 

3. Brand Benchmarking

In these tough times of economic recession, lack of guest loyalty, availability of too many options, the advent of newer chains that come attached with the strings of their unique features and discerning facets, it makes a whole lot of sense to continually benchmark internally and raise the bar amidst the other players in the industry.

Guests will stay with you for the overall goodness of your product and will return only when they see a different value for themselves from the rest of the pack that hounds and courts them and solicits their business.

4. Eye for Innovation

There is always an opportunity to better your best; to present an idea in a more superior way than the next good guy in town. And that is where your inclination for innovation comes in. Faster Wi-Fi, more well-stocked minibar, a much more improved in-house laundry, greater hassle-free check-in and check-out, far more efficient in-room and butler services, more refined ease of conducting business affairs while still in the Limo, a stellar guest history software that remembers every tiny detail about the guest – the penchant to reinvent yourselves and keep your R&D skills razor sharp will always stand you in good stead.

5. Trending in Technology

While with a lot of other things we can set our own rank (think permutations in infrastructure, preferences in design, choice of services’ routine and template), with technology we can only follow what has been devised by the denizens of the Silicon Valley and madly copied and distributed in tech labs and IT firms.

From Apple founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne down to Zuckerberg’s Facebook, the A to Z of tech wizards are stumbling over each other to present the next big and better craze.

While many other things are in our hands, technology is in the hands of those who dive deep into the sea of innovation and swim back with one magnificent creation after another. With technology making the world smaller and hospitality always endeavouring to bring the world closer, it makes sense to keep up with the latest offering in personal and business technology, especially when the competition has just reworked and jazzed up their tech menu and offerings for the guests. 

The five above will always guarantee to keep your Brand alive and kicking, your think tank busy, your creative teams satiated, your employee base motivated and above all, your guests happy.

When caught in the jargon of business theories and the loop spun by the new age witchdoctors; do reflect on these basic tenets and see how your business continues to thrive and outperform.

Have a successful and satisfying 2018!


Pictures courtesy - Google Images 


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Superb Writers 2017!

Today I was added to the list of Superb Writers 2017 by Vin Clancy.
Vin Clancy, a noted Twitterati, is a UK based Award-winning public speaker specializing in growth hacking, internet marketing, and personal branding. He says, "I help people use the internet to improve their lives." He is also a "Listerateur," or a master craftsman of lists if you please, pooling together great talent into cohesive, easy to follow and easier to reap lists. Vin has created a reservoir of great creative minds and Thought Leaders by drawing up an awe-inspiring bunch of 69 lists on Twitter. About Superb Writers 2017, Vin Clancy has this to say - "These lot are going somewhere :) follow them!"

Monday, 4 December 2017

Top 20 of all time!

I note it with immense joy and gratitude that two of my articles are amongst the 20 best of all time on Bizcatalyst 360. 

In fact, they appear at Numbers 1 and 3.

This is Manna for any Writer, and certainly a spot of divine motivation!

Thank you!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Common Communication mistakes that show us in bad light! (Part 2)

Communication, any form, is the bedrock that helps you define your Brand and reinforce your Brand Image. It helps you convey your Brand Story to the intended publics. Communication helps you seal Sales deals, build up your reputation, break down misconceptions and make strong relationships with your clients. 

More often than not, emails are the first interface with a potential client or a probable business prospect. 

So why do we cut detestable corners while communicating – both verbally and via the written word! In trying to save time we end up dispensing more in damage control.

Here follow the remaining five mistakes we continue to make, despite our good intentions - 

1. Going around in circles 

Instead of addressing the issue at hand or bringing a closure to the discussion; why do we like to engage in preambles, introductions and corollaried explanations? We often tend to engage in 
Over-the-top business writing.

Research shows that to-the-point text carries more weight and delivers more than the superfluous assemblage of words simply adding weight to the body copy.

Be brief. Brevity is indeed a virtue. It helps you capture the reader’s attention span for just the requisite amount of time and convey your piece with force and conviction.

Also, break your text into paras for an effortless read. And do adhere to that middle school diktat of Introduction – Body – Conclusion in most of your communication for easy comprehension and takeaways by the recipients. 

2. Being Grammar-ly handicapped 

I am of the strong belief that no matter how less time we have with us, how small our gadgets become and in whatever part of the world we work in, Grammar will always be our guardian angel in effective communication.

Grammar sets apart a pro from a tyro, a zealous worker from a careless one, a professional who takes pride in his handiwork from one who is merely passing time.

Usage of proper grammar uplifts the document making it engaging, easy on the eye and a pleasure to read.

Lack of good grammar and its improper use can alter the meaning of what you wish to convey, and sometimes in acute cases put your text in the grey zone of libel.   

Grammar is no longer as stringent in dictating terms. The rules that applied, say in the 60s, have been relaxed. It is alright to write in an easier, fluent, conversational style. Yet the basic boundaries that bring shape to your syntax and coherence to your content must be observed.

A fabulous writing/editing web resource, Freestyle Editorial, corroborates the point by stating, “The most engaging, persuasive business writing is also the most conversational. So that means you can, and often should violate some stuffy grammatical rules. Which means; you can end sentences with a proposition, split the occasional infinitive, and begin sentences with a conjunction. After all, that is how we speak. However, breaking other grammatical rules can make you look…well…dumb. They can hurt your organization’s credibility and affect the conscious and unconscious purchasing decisions of your customers. According to a 2009 Survey, 94 percent of business service buyers report that grammar, punctuation, and spelling affect their purchasing decisions to some extent.”

There are a million grammar minefields that you should try and avoid at all costs. It’s vs. Its; There, Their, They’re; Stationary vs. Stationery; Principle vs. Principal; Who vs. Whom; Affect vs. Effect; That vs. Which are some of the most common goof-ups we make.

Communication is a craft; please hone it and practise it well. Many a reputation and businesses have been broken on the wheel of weak Grammar and slip-shod structure. 

3. Leaning towards emoticons and Smileys

I am surely one of the biggest culprits of using the smiley face rampantly. To me, no communication is complete until I have sent a smiley back to close the conversation; and close a conversation one must. It is the closest to smiling back at a person; easily the nicest element in our non-verbal personality indicators and body language. 

I get away with it, in my formal dialogue with my editors, publishers and fellow professionals I meet and interact with on the Web. But in a more sacrosanct, corporate workspace I would flinch if I did it more than the rare few times I could indulge myself.

Emoting with the Emojis in your social media exchanges and with a certain set of people is absolutely fine. Go ahead and give that Thumbs up or send that snoozing fat kitten.

But, at large, and in most of your formal communication, please refrain from looking perplexed or agitated or elated or walloped, the last depicted by that copiously weeping round face. Also, even when you are bursting at your seams with mirth, there is no place for a ‘Ha Ha Ha’ in official content.

Emoticons have their place in our messaging systems but a business communication text is not one of them.

4. Being poor in punctuation 

Why do we have a penchant for over usage of exclamation marks and under usage of spacing options??? See, I did it right there. 

Can you please send it to me ASAP??????

Waiting for the report!!!!!!!!!!

I called your office to discuss the important matter at hand. I have been waiting for a call back?!?!?!?!?

Do these look familiar? I know, there are a gazillion instances that make us feel exasperated, push us to the end of the tether and make us hit our heads against the wall. Our corporate avatars are constantly barraged by issues and situations through the day that try our patience.

But exhibiting that vexation, on the formal platform, through the crutch of excessively used exclamation marks is certainly not a proper outlet. Everything has its place; don’t overuse it. That is why the chair and standing office exercises and 2-minute meditation techniques were invented.

One of my personal peeves is when people do not use the readily available Spacing Options intelligently and allow their text to tumble down their hill of overflowing thoughts.
Please use correct pauses in your clauses. Use indentations and line spacing to divide your copy and demarcate contexts and sub-contexts. This is not an embellishment of text; it is de rigueur in developing your communication.

5. Ignoring Culture sensitivity

In the case of the simple, irritating, highly commonly used LOL, what is Laugh out Loud for the Goose may be Lots of Love for the Gander.

WTF, that ubiquitous, highly appropriate, extremely profane Americanism can stand for World Trade Fair (in business), What the Fish (a polite form of ‘that’ profanity), Walk to Freedom (US Army), Wire Transfer Form (in Money Matters), Weapons Tactics Force (in gaming),  Work Time Fun (PSP game) or Wikileaks Task Force (US CIA).

Please remember, my COB could be your EOD! 

In today’s livewire world of Social media and its 24X7 connectivity, people across the world are taking umbrage for just about anything. Now, it is not okay to write ‘He could make a difference to the role.’ To be politically correct, you must write ‘He or she could make a difference to the role,’ lest risk being labelled a sexist.

In the same vein avoid using old-practice generic words such as chairman, businessman, forefather, layman, mankind, manpower, spokesman and the like; switching them with the more unbiased, non-controversial and definitely proper alternatives viz., chairperson, businessperson, ancestor, layperson, humankind or human race, workforce, representative and so on.

It is not just the term ‘Black’ which is off limits. People prefer Asian from Oriental or the more specific Indian, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani (never the offensive Paki), Alaska Native or even Inuit-Yupik over Eskimo, Aboriginal people over Aborigines.

Remember, in a conscious effort to be more sensitive and inclusive, we no longer use crippled and disabled; replacing them with more respectful ‘special,’ or ‘differently abled.’

Do you recall the case of Justine Sacco, the Communications Director (no less) of New York-based internet empire InterActive Corp, who was roasted on slow fire for her tactless and thoughtless holiday tweet, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!” The mindless, heartless, insensitive communiqué not only set trolls on her back, but it also discredited any good work she may have done, brought her infamy and made her resign from her enviable position.

Finally, one of the dirtiest acts in the case of communications is not keeping your house clean and letting emails gather and collect dust. In spite of CCleaner, digital organizer and other organizing tools we still fail to de-clutter our inbox; inviting more trouble and stress.

I urge you to make your work and life easy by making your communication work for you. Become more effective, save time and heartache by imbibing some of the above-mentioned strategies.

After all, Y.O.L.O; err......You Only Live Once!


Picture courtesy - Google Images

Saturday, 18 November 2017

God is not dwelling in the details anymore!

A Wine Dinner mailer from The Leela Hotels spelt 'culinary' as culinery.

A formal note of felicitation from the top brass at ITC Hotels finished the note with "Thanks once for your support" instead of 'Thanks once again.....'

A very officious Background Paper of a prestigious Commonwealth Body has one of the sentences read as -

"Today, more 6000 alumni that have been generated by these conferences held in Australia, NZ, the Pacific, Canada, the Caribbean, India, Malaysia and the UK."

Has the God deserted his dwelling in the details?

The more gadgets and Apps we have at our disposal, the more we are turning into dunces! 

I rest my case.

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Sunday, 5 November 2017

May I blow my Cornet please!!

Gloat Alert! I would like to share a pleasant note and "blow my own Cornet." A lovely endorsement of one of my pieces by Jordan Hollander, the Co-founder of Hotel Tech Report. I wanted to blow the Trumpet but then it would have been too big for the moment. I thought of blowing a whistle, but then I could be called a whistle-blower. Blowing a conch would have religious undertones. Blowing a Bugle will have military/wartime shades. So let's settle down with a cornet, for now. And here's what Jordan wrote :-) :-)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

How to Become a PR Wizard! PR 101 (Part 1)

Just yesterday, a well-established Travel and Food Writer in the Subcontinent raised a pertinent virtual dialogue about how she misses good, honest PR of yore. She rued the fact that a lot of people getting into hospitality PR do not come with the right skills and more significantly, with the right mindset. There is more chaff than grain, she lamented, stating that the PR world has become superficial, messy and mediocre with too many untrained cooks spoiling the publicity broth.

Many young people get into the world of Hospitality Public Relations wearing rose-tinted glasses and thinking that it is going to be a joy ride. They think working in a hotel is going to be a one-big never-ending party with hours spent in wining and dining, a fun affair with the most important factor being that you look your pretty/handsome best.

So where are we going wrong? Let’s review the characteristics that we should come to be identified with and look at traits that should form an integral part of our personal toolkit; not just in the world of hospitality but in any other industry.

1. Know your field well. You are the master of the PR Universe in your Company. Hence, be adept at every rule in the book, current practices and upcoming trends.

2. Know everything about your Hotel there is to know – from Corporate Mission & Vision and Brand Philosophy to the Company bottom line.

3. Know about the functioning of each department, from the fancy food & beverage to the gritty housekeeping. You never know where a good story, promotional idea or media talent is lurking to help you get a peg or build a campaign. Besides, you are THE news generator for all the impressive things done by your compatriots in different departments.

4. Endeavour to learn whatever there is about your Competition – their outstanding facets, USP, what they do differently from you, their new product/feature launches, where do they fit in your competition analysis. It helps you differentiate your product and add more muscle to your PR efforts. Plus, all the added knowledge arms you to the teeth to handle your portfolio like a virtuoso.

5. Stay on top of all your visibility platforms – from slide presentations on in-house television, media packs, FAM backgrounders to mobile or tablet interfaces and the Company website. Any dead wood floating around is bad news and shows you, the most, in a very poor light.

6. Do not make the mistake of treating media merely as a vehicle that carries forward your communication capsules. You wouldn’t be farther from the reality, if you thought and acted thus.

7. Media is an ally; in fact, your strongest that helps people measure your worth as a PR practitioner and gets you a high-performance rating on your appraisal. This is true. 

Many organizations still think that the single most important role of a PR person is to get visibility in the media. Often, a PR Agency’s work on your Company account is rated on the basis of the extent of coverage it gets. 

8. Like a good friend, media must be treated with respect, trust and genuine liking; with sincere efforts made to meet the common goals. You must develop good information for them, share exciting newsworthy items with ample thought about which media likes what, when you must embargo your news piece and when you must adhere to the exclusivity demands.

You must pay heed to how best you balance your rapport with different representatives and media houses. You must, non-negotiably, react to the media requests in a timely fashion, get out of your comfort zone to develop real relationships and deliver in the best way possible nine times out of ten.  

You must also learn to withhold the virtues and brand guidelines of your Company in a happy, result-oriented, productive confluence with what the media seeks without having to bow down to unrealistic pressure. 

Nobody said it would be easy. It was never meant to be, nevertheless, efforts made to seal a mutually beneficial pact and a mutually respecting relationship with the media is easily your biggest feat.

9. Develop a fondness for words and a skill for writing – from professional to flowery and rigorously formal to rhetorical content. More times than not, you are the in-house Content Writer for your hotel for a variety of things ranging from a guest letter and newsletter text to due diligence report or brochure copy.

10. Know a thing or two about database management. As a PR person, there will be a wide spectrum of lists that you will handle. It will come in handy if you know exactly how to build, store and mine the data. Also, at all costs, keep the data dynamic devoid of any dreg and debris.

11. Stoke your creative side. As the PR expert you are the Chief-in-charge or via media or the bridging factor for all the demiurgic initiatives, be it advertising, stock photography, website and marketing collateral, press kit presentations, food & beverage and general events conceptualization.

12. Cultivate the left side of your brain too and develop an affinity for figures. It pays to understand the Company balance sheet, understand fiscal issues, make balanced and pragmatic marketing & PR budgets and work towards profit protection.

13. Foster a penchant for Printing techniques and design basics. I enjoy getting to learn the various stages of printing and diving into the magnificent world of fonts and designs. I get a sense of immense satisfaction from creating beautiful collateral. In any case, whether you like it or not; mastering this territory will help you deliver great results as this line of activity falls within your purview.

14. Catch up with the evolving times and get abreast of the latest trends in marketing and PR – be it digital marketing, social media deluge, new presentation techniques using most modern gadgetry, photo and file share internet tools and sundry technological innovations in the field of PR and its allied services. 

15. You must attempt to become proficient in a wide range of Computer related skills from Word to Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop, CorelDraw; whatever assists you in becoming an exceptional worker. From Adobe to Video conferencing with a picturesque stop-over at Picasa or Google Images, you must endeavour to learn as many IT tools and techniques as you can.

In the second part of this piece, we will talk about more qualities that will help you stand apart from the commoners and transport you into the top 1 % of the exceptionally qualified Royalty.  


Picture courtesy - Google Images

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Common Communication mistakes that show us in bad light! (Part 1)

Given the constant onslaught on our senses – with task lists at work having grown bigger and responsibilities at home unceasing - putting time into writing coherent, cogent, consciously thought out emails is really not on top of our prioritized heap. 

Hence, the quick-fixes and shortcuts we have begun to adopt, without realizing that we dig a deep hole for our professional avatars when paying disregard to how we communicate in our business roles.

Here follow five of the ten seemingly simple communication rules that we get wrong most of the time. 

It would help – both how we project our personas and how we are perceived by others - if we attempted to avoid the following bloopers when we hit the keypad:– 

1. Not getting the salutation or form of addressing right 

You have to believe it when I tell you how ridiculously I was called out by a telemarketer recently. When I picked up the call she asked to speak to “Dhir L. Aruna”. I asked her why was she addressing me in such an outlandish fashion and she said, without the virtual batting of an eyelid, “That is how it is written in the document I have in my hand.”

There are different ways to address people with different designations ranging from Mr., Ms. (helps to avoid Miss or Mrs. saving you from making more goof-ups. Further, in business matters, Ms. is more unequivocal, formal and professional than either Miss or Mrs.), Dr., Your Excellency, The Honourable and so on. We have set out guidelines available to us in each case. Please use them.

Also, when you are writing to a neutral sounding name do a background check on what gender the person belongs to and address them correctly. Though not any less in others, this becomes quite important in the service industry where you have a direct relationship with a customer/guest.

I once addressed a certain Blaise M as “Ms. M” because I had encountered a female Blaise in the past but here I was dealing with a male Managing Director. I was pretty embarrassed about the faux pas, which could have been easily avoided. Andrea, Alex, Jordan, Jamie, Morgan, Taylor, Chandra, Kiran, Jyoti, Shashi....the world is full of people with unisex names. Do a little research on the relevant recipient in order to get your salutation right.

Then there follows the next thing after the salutation. What is the best form of addressing a business associate? If you are an American or Australian it may be OK to get on to Peter, Katherine or Edward or even to Pete, Kate or Ed in the second mail itself. Even in the case of these nationalities, please wait for the addressee to give you that leeway. The world, it seems, is filled with too many people who are eager to cross the bar and jump into the area of over-familiarity.

But do that with Europeans, Asians, Far East Asians and you are walking on thin ice that could quickly snap and sink you into the cold shoulder reservoir.

I don’t understand the recent practice of e-retailers who work on an algorithm that automatically picks up the first name. I find it quite atrocious and unprofessional bordering on rude to be addressed as Aruna by the virtual (nameless, faceless) book vendor, furniture supplier, banker, grocer, credit card rep and the like. Since their system is based on a pre-written code why can’t they get their salutation right and stick to the tried and tested, old-fashioned way of writing to a Mr. or Ms. so and so?

Again, in the service industry – be it hotels, banks, hospitals, insurance..... - it is safe to stick to the conservative Mr. or Mrs. Smith to set the ball of official communication rolling.

2. Using SMS language or other Acronyms

We are surely and quite dreadfully becoming the generation that communicates in ‘textese.’ 

As if ASAP, BTW, THX, FYI, Ha Ha were not already pretty bad, we are now resorting to C U, IMHO, GR8, MSG, IDK in our emails. The latest inductee in the Communication Hall of Shame to get the Oxford Dictionary recognition is NBD. But in business communication, this matter is a Big Deal!

With modes of our daily communication getting smaller, the case of us using them to communicate officially is increasing. For a lot of practical reasons, the first casualty – which seems superfluous in the times of the tablet – to be crucified is punctuation.

We commit this error, even if it puts us in the category of cheats and felons. Sample this – 

Let’s eat Grandpa
Let’s eat, Grandpa

Using textese in official communication shows you in a bad light, makes you appear lazy and worst of all, threatens to change the import of your communication capsule.

Similarly, acronyms are extremely contextual and country-specific. On my first trip to the US, when I failed to comprehend a colloquialism, a cousin scoffed saying I was F.O.B. The joke was lost on me.

Officially recognized acronyms such as UNICEF, NATO, WTO, AIDS are universally accepted and understood. So, there is no problem in using them. Even CRM, DM, B2B, B2C, CPC, DNS, GA, HTML, KPI are an integral part of our Business lingo, easy to comprehend and relate to.

What causes a problem is the usage of the informal ones, even if you must send in a reply or submit a report ASAP.  Definitely steer clear of OMG, IMHO, NSFW, WYSIWYG, LOL, TTYL and some of the other new world language croppers that, IMO, take the essence and flow away from the text.

Be mindful about dipping into the overused FYI, FYA, BTW, B4, BRB, PLZ, CU, the abominable K, the illiterate UR and the incoherent TY.

Increasing and widespread usage of SMSese or chatspeak has, indeed, corrupted our language, affected our comprehension and limited our linguistic skills.

3. Sending too many attachments

Attachments can be hugely irksome; especially on hand-held devices.

A leading news website I wish to write for, gives specific instructions while inviting a writer pitch. “Please do not send attachements,” it says categorically. “Cut and paste or write into the body of the email all the responses we seek to our queries,” it adds.

Unless specifically asked for or when really important to the matter at hand – for instance attaching a CV to the job application, sending a report document, a brochure design PDF – desist from adding weight to your mail by needlessly pinning attachments to it.   

Attachments are, often, invited by the recipient or offered by the sender when you are in your second or third stage of dialogue. Also, send only the requisite amount, even when you must upsell yourself or your product.

4. Getting too familiar in our tone 

It could be because we have too much on our plate, or because we wish to save time for our other pursuits or diddle away precious time on our social media activities so much that we are in a maniacal frenzy to get the important work done. We may also feel that appearing close to a professional contact or a figure of authority will bring us some benefit. Whatever is our excuse, some of us are getting too familiar with the way we communicate officially.

I, recently, received a formal note from a junior colleague who wished to enlist my help in writing/editing with a “Hello, there.” No, it was not a SPAM or a lottery scam from Nigeria. The person was from my industry, was writing to seek formal help and was attempting to create an impression.

Some obnoxious notes end with a callously casual, “Do call me,” which is not only grammatically incorrect but also makes the sender come across as pompously presumptuous. 

More often than not, our disembodied voice and the content of our message conveyed over the phone or a business letter we send ahead of establishing a formal connection, are the first impressions we leave on the mind of the recipient. Then, why do we risk our reputation by doing a shoddy job when even that first instance can be used to our benefit.

Becoming too friendly instead of staying professionally warm makes you cross the line of decorum making you appear as a pushover and an eager-beaver.

5. Trusting the Autocorrect blindly / not using spell check

At my first hotel job with the Hyatt Group, I was sending a note to the General Manager and I missed the crucial “l” in my designation as a terrible typographical error. Though, in hindsight, it seemed like a comical caper, at the time I was hugely embarrassed and had a tough time facing the boss for days.

Autocorrect has been seen changing Goldman Sachs to Goddamn Sachs, Public to Pubic, Dear to Dead, Party to Patty and the always hilarious ‘meeting with clients’ to ‘mating with clients.’

Autocorrect has a brain of its own and is known to put not only your job in danger but destroy your painfully built reputation too. The web is filled with ‘Damn You Autocorrect’ sites that can help you kill time on a lazy Sunday afternoon but do not let the Computer fed, algorithmically driven Net mind to make you lose your own. 

In Part 2 of this article, we will look at the remaining five mistakes we commit, intentionally or inadvertently, in our communication.


Cartoons courtesy - Google Images

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Time for a little gloat!

My mini, mini 'Oscar' moment!
A million thank yous for all the goodwill you send my way. I am truly indebted.
I hope in my own ways I pay back and forward just a little.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Leadership Lessons from Legends!

Leadership is not usually a legacy that we are bestowed upon with. It is a role we aspire to, work towards and attain through experience, intelligence, astuteness and by proving our usefulness for the bigger responsibilities such a stature brings.

Just like in any other industry, in the world of hospitality too, there are several opportunities for us to exhibit leadership at both micro and magnum levels – as department heads, Team leaders, General Managers, Regional Heads, Brand Chiefs, COOs and CEOs.

Therefore, Leaders must always remain answerable, accountable, effective and exemplary. My Maslowian Leadership Pyramid, below, outlines the progression a professional leader must make to self-actualize himself or herself -

Here are ten professional traits that define a true-blue leader –

1. Knowledge  

Leaders aim to be virtuosos. They train themselves to be an expert in their field; be it keeping a guest room spotlessly spic and span or managing a large hotel chain, ensuring that it stays highest ranked in any rating or recognition.

The bank of knowledge keeps them ahead of the game. In their constant striving for excellence, they endeavour to break the glass ceiling. A leader sets commendable standards with his working style, his know-how and eagerness to present his best, always.

Leaders are clued onto the smallest to the biggest things that happen in their business world. PRS Oberoi, the formidable owner of India’s much acclaimed and awarded hotel chain named after his family, is known to let his keen eye miss absolutely nothing when on a hotel visit – from a crookedly placed rosebud in a vase to the temperature at which the finest bottle of champagne is served; from the misplaced crease on the Doorman’s epaulette to the worry line on the forehead of another team member.

2. Perpetual Learning 

Leaders know that the place they have reached has not come easy. They are also aware that the road ahead is going to be tough, arduous and competitive. Leaders refuse to rest on past laurels. They are mindful of the fact that their skills and the business must evolve in step with the dynamics of the world and the changing times.

Besides; their drive and zeal nudges them to push the envelope of learning, mental growth and physical limits of performance.

One of the finest examples of this is the life lesson left behind by Conrad Hilton. He began his hotel business with Mobley Hotel in Texas – a 40-room property that he bought in 1919. His first high-rise hotel was the Dallas Hilton that he opened in 1925 before expanding into New Mexico. However, as luck would have it, Hilton was gravely hit by the Great Depression and was forced to sell off some of his hotels so as to keep away from bankruptcy. But his exceptional hoteliering skills came in handy and he was retained as the Manager of the hotels; which he promptly bought back once the national economic state bettered and he began fairing well.

Hilton went on to build hotels, grow his business admirably; such that Hilton Hotels became the first international hotel chain; no mean feat even today.

3. Being Competitive

Not only with others but with themselves too; in fact, leaders are more with themselves. They must meet their own high expectations and come up to the level they visualize themselves at. Leaders blossom in good, honest competition. There lies an inherent eagerness to outclass and the passion to chart new courses. The excitement of better, brighter goals keeps them motivated and stimulated.

Leaders admire other skilled workers & specialists and must compete with them to get to greater heights of brilliance. This sense of competitiveness gets going the ball of learning, improving, growing into the state of work awesomeness; to the satisfaction of both the doer and the recipients.

Steve Wynn, despite the hardships he steered his family out of, had the steely will and foresight to create a hotel empire that has brought him worldwide recognition and commercial success. Wynn is credited with resurrecting the internationally famous Las Vegas Strip by injecting renewed interest in the area and by creating such iconic properties as The Mirage and The Bellagio, truly among the biggest and the brightest hotels globally.
4. Bottom-line Friendly 

Leaders endeavour to perform such that the outcome of their actions is always profitable. They despise anything that brings loss; in terms of bad service, inability to close the service delivery loop, losing a client, profit deficit, business failure. They are conscious of the fact that for them and others to grow and flourish, the business must remain successful.

What's more, they acknowledge the fact that it is often bad actions, bad planning and bad decisions that lead to bad business. And they wish to be associated with none of these.

Barry Sternlicht often called the ‘King of hotels,’ put his fervent business acumen, background in real estate, fine judgement for prized properties and deep understanding for creating brands to found and grow Starwood Hotels and Resorts into one of the widest, biggest and financially successful hotel groups.

5. Always Respond and Resolve

This is one of the most common grounds on which somebody is called a leader. Leaders bring together their learning, experience and attitude to give sensible, effective and optimum resolution to your issues. Because they have the expertise, they need not skirt the issue and hide behind files and faux reasons to escape the matter.

More importantly, they hold in high esteem the tag they have earned on merit and they are not willing to lose that by being seen as laid back, inefficient, careless and non-committed. Hence, leaders always respond – to situations at hand, to people matters and to larger business issues.

One of the nicer aspects of dealing with such people is that even if it is to decline or regret; leaders leave such a great aftertaste that you wish to do business with them again.

Kemmons Wilson’s personal disappointment with the kind of roadside accommodation that was available for his holiday led him to envision and create the Holiday Inn model of hotels.

Stemming from his own experience, Wilson’s clear-cut brief for his Chain was that the properties should be standardized, clean, predictable, family-friendly and readily accessible to road travellers. From 50 hotels in 1958, 100 in 1959, 500 by 1964 and 100th Holiday Inn in 1968; today the Company has grown to be one of the world’s largest hotel chains with 435,299 bedrooms in 3,463 hotels globally hosting over 100 million guest nights each year.

6. Be S.M.A.R.T

Leaders espouse the principles of S.M.A.R.T working, both in their approach and the results they show. Their performance is, indeed, specific (leaders are focused), measurable (result-orientation is a key factor for them), attainable (leaders are practical and seldom have their heads in the clouds), relevant (their efforts must bear fruits of business, satisfaction, customer retention, problem-solving for themselves, the Company they represent and the guests) and time-bound (leaders apprehend the importance of time and are aware of the ills of non-deliverability or deliverability in an untimely fashion, which may be as good as task not done).

One of the best-known hotel trivia revolves around the genesis of the word “ritzy.” It is an established fact that the usage of the term stemmed from the name of Cesar Ritz and his namesake legendary hotels he founded in Paris and London.

The celebrated hotelier’s life is noteworthy on so many levels. It is said that he started small and then scaled up to skyscraping heights of success with grit, determination, and ingenuity that made him stand apart. Cesar Ritz began his career as a Maître d'hôtel in a restaurant before stepping up the ladder to manage hotels in Lucerne and Monaco. He built a reputation for his impeccable taste and instant rapport with wealthy guests thereby developing a profound understanding of the guests’ needs and desires and pioneering the foundation of luxury as we know today – two tenets that he lent to his hotel brand.

7. Take Charge

Have you noticed how there is that one Server who will outperform and over-deliver should things go wrong with your order at a restaurant? He will assume command over the situation, apologize sincerely, rectify the order, make certain that you are not made to wait any longer and cap it off with a comp side or dessert. He is a professional who knows his work, is in control, values you, is adept at saving the reputation of his Company and ensuring that the business stays with them and does not walk over to the Competition.

In a crisis condition, have you taken note of the Security guy or Guest Relations executive who will go beyond expectation to take stock of the situation, swiftly, and then strategize to provide safety while soothing your frayed nerves with a personal touch. He or she need not be a certified Fire Fighter; it is enough that they are the best in their role, are quick to assume the responsibility for their actions and do not ever mind pulling the weight of others when they fail to match up.

Such professionals have a strong leadership quality even in their everyday work situations. And in times of crises, they are stars that shine out with their rock-solid resolve and stellar skills.

Given this attribute, leaders impart lessons by setting an example, by being there and being available. The irresistible celebrity CEO and Visionary and now the Founder-Owner of Virgin Hotels – Sir Richard Branson has committed to be present at the opening of every Virgin hotel; much like the other great hotelier – Ritz Carlton’s Herve Humler who, allegedly, never misses a hotel opening anywhere in the world, and Ritz-Carlton has so far opened about 90 hotels in 29 countries.  

8. Gain Experience

Several years of hard work – first study, then practice - have gone into shaping the leader into what he is today. The professionals who lead, dip into their rich pool of experience to outshine and often go beyond the brief.

J. Willard Marriott, as the founder of the eponymous chain, has always been considered a doyen of the international hospitality industry. But it is his son, Bill Marriott Jr., who has grown the brand into what it has become today with his insight, inclination towards a franchise model business, innovative spirit, his attention to detail and ideal work ethics.

Having led the Chain for more than 50 years, from a family restaurant business to a Monolith with 3100 + properties spread across 67 countries, Bill’s imprint on the Chain and the industry is so indelible that Marriott gets ranked as the “best place to work in” year after year.

9. Be a Visionary

Leaders are on a journey – their destination is ‘being the best in their field and roles;’ higher after higher scales of excellence are the milestones. To be such work wizards they strategize to develop new tactics, perfect their old good practices and draw a roadmap that is onward bound, both in terms of productivity and passion.

Conrad Hilton, one of the finest hoteliers the world has ever seen, was far-sighted and inclusive in his business approach even when his Company had not grown to the mammoth size it is now. In 1944, he established The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation with a mission to alleviate human suffering worldwide. Hilton Hotels International Company followed in his footsteps and furthered his goals by instituting the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996 and The Conrad N. Hilton Chair in Business Ethics and The Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Award in subsequent years.

Leaders are far-sighted and that is why they always manage to rise above the small issues and petty people with their sights aimed at bigger, more far-reaching goals.

10. Keeping the Big Picture in mind

Leaders usually do not sweat over the small stuff.

Their sights are set high; hence little everyday battles are simply stepping stones in their way; as it is the war of wisdom, wonderment and world class achievement that they must win.

Born into the extremely wealthy and influential Astor family, John Jacob Astor IV used his rich background and enviable educational and life experience to establish new standards of luxury in the world of hoteliering.

Even today, when an analogy has to be drawn for the finest standards in luxury, it is John Jacob Astor IV’s two best-known creations - Waldorf Astoria and St. Regis - that are cited as benchmarks. It is also known that the legendary hotelier, who the world lost in the tragic sinking of the Titanic, was multifaceted. Astor is the author of a science fiction novel ‘A Journey in Other Worlds’ (1894) about life in the year 2000 on the planets Saturn and Jupiter. With a penchant for scientific innovation, Astor is known to have patented several inventions, including a bicycle brake in 1898, a "vibratory disintegrator" and a pneumatic road-improver. He also helped in the development of turbine engine.

It follows from the lives of these hotel legends that leadership stems from innate passion. It is shaped by the goals one sets for oneself. And it is polished through consistent, diligent and honest practice.

There resides the potential to be a leader in all of us. The honed-over-time zeal, determination, conscientiousness and foresightedness arm us well in our aspiration to become an outstanding leader in our chosen field.


Picture courtesy - Google Images