Our Ladies and Gentlemen: Laura Troy

LauraTroyEach month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee — also known as Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton — in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. This month’s interview is with Laura Troy, Social Media Manager for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.

RCLC: Please share a little about your background and role within The Ritz-Carlton organization.
Ms. Troy: I began my Ritz-Carlton career eight years ago as a sales and marketing assistant. I transitioned into public relations just as social media was beginning to rise outside of college campuses. Over time, my work became focused more on social media and less on public relations and my role evolved into social media manager. I am currently responsible for creating and executing our social media strategy and online community management. I also work with our hotels and ensure that all social media efforts are cohesive, customer-centric and aligned.

RCLC: How did The Ritz-Carlton first become involved with social media?
Ms. Troy: Initially, we launched on two channels; Facebook and Twitter. Allison Sitch, Vice President of Global Public Relations, managed our Twitter channel and I managed our Facebook presence. When we started, we weren’t sure if luxury consumers would participate in social media conversations or want to engage on our platforms. We knew our focus should be on adding value to the digital time spent with us and to create engaging communities in which our guests could connect with our brand, become inspired and share their travel memories with us. Today, we see high levels of engagement on our social media channels with our consumers participating in conversations across multiple channels. For the second year in a row, Engagement Labs, an independent social media auditor, has recognized The Ritz-Carlton as the most engaged hotel brand in the space.

RCLC: How many channels does The Ritz-Carlton have now?
Ms. Troy: We currently have 13 channels including social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare and Sina Weibo in China. Our two newest channels are an Instagram account dedicated to The Ritz-Carlton Reserve and an Instagram account dedicated to Food and Beverage at The Ritz-Carlton.

RCLC: How do you decide to launch a new channel?
Ms. Troy: Before we create a new channel, we take a thorough look at what our consumers are using. For example, we know that people love taking photos of their dining experiences on Instagram. With amazing chefs, mixologists and bartenders all over the world it made a lot of sense for us to highlight our culinary expertise on Instagram. Each social media channel needs to have its own objective, purpose and content strategy. We don’t want to add additional channels that replicate the same content and messages over and over and over again.

RCLC: How many people does it take to manage 13 social media channels?
Ms. Troy: We partner with Pandemic Labs, based out of Boston. They have been our partner in the space from the very beginning. Three people from Pandemic work on our account full time with me—so it’s really a team of five people including our Vice President of Global Public Relations who oversees our social media strategy and heavy contribution from 90 Ritz-Carlton Communications professionals around the globe.

RCLC: How do you produce all the content needed for 13 social media channels?
Ms. Troy: Fortunately we have 91 highly engaged hotel properties around the world, and each month they submit content for the brand channels. We provide them with different types of content prompts every month that can be based on popular topics, themes, destinations and cultural trends. We want to make sure we are creating content and conversations that our consumers want to participate in whether it be on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

RCLC: Do you use content generated by guests?
Ms. Troy: Yes, we use user-generated content through our #RCMemories campaign. We search that hashtag every day and select posts to re-gram and create captions with a credit to the user. We also share a collection of user-generated content through #RCMemories on our website.

RCLC: Do guests reach out over social media?
Ms. Troy: For us, social media is a constant conversation with a very large group of people who are extremely important to us. We want to be present on whatever channel our guests/audience choose to converse with us. For example, a couple of weeks ago a guest Tweeted us, “I am with my 12 year old son, what other fun stuff should we do while we are with you.” We Tweeted back “If you have a sweet tooth, we suggest Marshmology. Learn the history of marshmallows from our marshmologist while enjoying s’mores around the firepit!” This happens every evening at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. They did, and they Tweeted back how much fun it was.

Often a social media channel is the first point of interaction with a guest. It is essential that the experience is as meaningful and professional as possible. The Ritz-Carlton on social media is a natural extension of the service being provided at our hotels. We are connecting and engaging with guests in similar ways to how our Ladies and Gentlemen do every single day—but in a digital environment.

RCLC: How often do guests reach out over social media with customer service issues?
Ms. Troy: Our Ladies and Gentlemen do a fantastic job resolving any issues real-time and in-person so it rarely escalates to social media. When customer service is requested over social media, we engage. We have a designated team that sits in our customer relations department who work to handle any opportunity.

RCLC: The Ritz-Carlton has won awards for social media. What differentiates The Ritz-Carlton approach to social media from other organizations?
Ms. Troy: We have always stayed true to our goals from the very beginning, extending customer engagement digitally in the social arena. As social media channels evolve, we adapt our strategy, but our core mission is always engagement. We strive to share content that ties back to our company vision to “inspire life’s most meaningful journeys.” Success is participating and reacting to 11,000 interactions every 24 hours. We love to hear about travel experiences and precious memories — if they happen to be at one of our hotels, that’s a bonus. It is extremely rewarding to know that our channels and content do indeed provide inspiration for others to travel and experience a rich world of cultural experiences.

RCLC: Since The Ritz-Carlton is a global brand, how do you approach social media around the world? Do you have to alter your content based on geography?
Ms. Troy: The goal around the world is to inspire and to use social media as a means of developing meaningful relationships with our audience. Channels that have global appeal take preference and then regionally specific ones too, such as Sina Weibo in China. We do need to be culturally aware, sensitive and respectful with messages, because not everything translates in every market. Research drives the topics we engage in.

RCLC: What do you value the most about the culture of The Ritz-Carlton?
Ms. Troy: One of my favorite aspects of The Ritz-Carlton culture is that our Ladies and Gentlemen are empowered to create amazing experiences for our guests every day. Many of the wonderful stories and memories that our consumers are sharing over social media are a result of our Ladies and Gentlemen being empowered to create an assortment of memorable experiences for our guests. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. 

Inspired Thinking – Social Media

“In fact, I believe the first companies that make an effort to develop an authentic, transparent, and meaningful social contract with their fans and customers will turn out to be the ones that are the most successful in the future. While brands that refuse to make the effort will lose stature and customer loyalty.” — Simon Mainwaring, branding consultant and social media specialist

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:
Social media can be a powerful extension of your brand. However, having a social media presence is not enough. As Mr. Mainwaring points out, you want to create “an authentic, transparent, and meaningful social contract.” The Ritz-Carlton approach to social media is to interact in meaningful ways with our communities; developing deeper connections with them and enabling conversation even when they are not physically staying with us. The interactions across each of the 12 social channels on which we have a presence are a natural extension of the way we interact with our guests in hotels. Social media provides the opportunity to not only connect but engage with past, present, and future customers.

In July, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. was ranked number one for social media engagement in the hotel industry by Engagement Labs. Learn more about The Ritz-Carlton approach and strategies for social media.

 

Our Ladies and Gentlemen: Allison Sitch

Allison SitchEach month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee — a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton — in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. This month’s interview is with Allison Sitch. A self-described, “straight shooter” who appreciates hard news stories over fluff, Ms. Sitch hasn’t always fit the mold of a corporate public relations executive. Yet she’s risen to the top of the PR industry while working for hotels in the United Arab Emirates, China, Europe and now as Vice President, Global Public Relations, based at The Ritz-Carlton headquarters in the United States.

RCLC: How did you become involved in Public Relations for the hospitality industry?

Ms. Sitch: In the early 1990s, I was a hotelier working in the food and beverage department of a hotel in the Middle East when the Gulf War broke out. As a result of the war, the hotel began to struggle financially, which meant personnel cuts. Fortunately I was spared as my General Manager asked me to transition to the Public Relations Department. It was there that I learned the business of promoting hotels through the media, and I found I had a passion for it!

RCLC: When did you join The Ritz-Carlton, and what is it that you value most about their culture?

Ms. Sitch: After I gained experience in public relations, I joined The Ritz-Carlton in 1999 as we opened our hotel in Dubai. Today, 15 years into my career with this brand, what I love about working for Ritz-Carlton is the sense of belonging to an organization that genuinely cares about its people and its guests. I truly enjoy working for an organization so focused on service excellence and always striving to do something better.

RCLC: Please describe your work as a media specialist.

Ms. Sitch: The most important part of my role is to protect the reputation of The Ritz-Carlton. Public Relations isn’t all about getting media hits and dealing with a crisis. It’s making sure people correctly translate what The Ritz-Carlton stands for and how it can be a part of your life. Secondly, the primary objective for The Ritz-Carlton in the social space is to strengthen the level of engagement for current guests and also to develop a love for our brand among aspirational consumers. To do that I focus the teams efforts on crafting the right messages, for the right people, on the right channels. We are an organization founded on the concept of individualized service — we pay attention to the details. Our communications strategy is no different.

RCLC: What advancements has The Ritz-Carlton made within the digital landscape?

Ms. Sitch:  In April 2009, we started working with social media — on Facebook and on Twitter. In fact, I remember a night that I anxiously sat up waiting until 2:30 AM for our fan count to click from 999 to 1000. Today The Ritz-Carlton has over 2.5 million fans on 12 channels, three of which are Mandarin. Our Facebook engagement is at 8.4%, which outperforms the industry average of 5.04%, and The Ritz-Carlton was ranked #1 by two independent studies on engagement in social platforms in the hotel category; Shareablee in January and Engagement Labs in August.

RCLC: How do you ensure your connection with customers is of value to them as well as for the company?

Ms. Sitch:  We have multiple social media platforms on which we connect with consumers. However each channel has been designed with a very different purpose – to participate in conversation and add value to multiple people with various interests. We measure the level of engagement that they have with our content to ensure they feel connected to what we are doing. In addition, we’ve deployed media specialists around the world to keep our finger on the pulse so we can understand consumers and the geographic and cultural sensitivities in various regions. That helps us with our positioning strategies and the ability to message and converse in-language and in relevant ways.

RCLC: How do you incorporate The Ritz-Carlton customer service principles into social media messaging?

Ms. Sitch: It’s all about connecting and engaging with consumers. The customer wants to know there’s a human on the other end of the digital line. The DNA of the company is centered around being of service and so the ability to interact through social media is a gift because it enables us to stay connected and converse the same way we would in person.

RCLC: Can you share an example of how that plays out?

Ms. Sitch: People are reaching out to us ahead of a visit to a hotel or destination asking our advice and recommendations, they share their photos during a stay and then their memories after they have departed. We take a real interest in the meaningful journeys they experience with us and the world of travel that we are able to help them experience. 

On Monday, April 13, 2015, Ms. Sitch will be a member of The Ritz-Carlton Executive Panel at the Symposium: Your Journey to Service Excellence in Dallas. Enroll before December 31, 2014, and take advantage of early bird pricing.