Book review: Media Strategies for Marketing Places in Crisis

Many tourism books written by academics tend to be heavy going for most tourism professionals. Consequently, it was with great relief that Media Strategies for Marketing Places in Crisis by El Avraham and Eran Ketter and published by Butterworth Heinemann 2008 is well written and very easy read. From the point of view of a tourism industry professional, this book is an invaluable reference.

All tourism businesses need to be prepared for crisis events and a complete understanding of what makes the media tick. Being media savvy is an essential asset in avoiding the trap that many destination marketers fall into during tough times when the media becomes your adversary rather than your ally.

The focus of the book is on media relations for destination marketers but the strategies can equally apply to tour operators, airlines, hoteliers, cruise companies and to some extent travel agents.

The book covers the full gamut of media relations as it relates to destinations. It includes public relations management, the conduct of media hosting, advertising and promotional campaigns, working with celebrities, image making and image changing during and after crisis events. The book covers the special skills of crisis communication, especially with the media and understanding consumer behaviour and tailoring media strategies and messages to address the concerns and perceptions of consumers in dealing with a destination experiencing a perceptual or actual crisis.

The book is full of contemporary case studies and examples from all over the world. Some examples are entertaining reading. Poland’s campaign to win tourists over during the post-communist era used handsome plumbers to attract the men and busty nurses to attract the men with varying beautiful scenes of Poland in the background if one bothered to look beyond the come hither looks of the models. Houston’s campaign to attract tourists made positive attributes of heat, humidity and mosquitoes by using a Texan form of humor that these were attributes of some of the most romantic tropical destinations on earth. It also illustrated that the Borat films which hardly showed Kazakhstan in a positive light presented an opportunity for Kazakhstan to be noticed and to correct “Borat’s” spin on the country.

The book’s only major fault is that it does not give due recognition to the outstanding pioneer work in tourism industry crisis communications and media relations fleshed out by the International Air Transport Association, which became the role model for the rest of the global tourism and hospitality industry.

Avraham and Ketter have made a valuable contribution to the growing body of literature on tourism crisis management, but their book also enhances the understanding of travel professionals in working more effectively with the media. I would suggest that all those involved in promoting destination China should purchase copies as a matter of urgency. However, the book is a valuable aide for every destination which has a heavy reliance of dealing with the media. This should include almost all destinations. Hopefully, this should make this very worthwhile book a best seller.

[David Beirman is eTN’s crisis management writer and author of “Restoring Tourism Destinations in Crisis.”]