The first (of many) social media storms have brewed and are playing online. 3 pubs (who I won't link to here on this blog, because they don't need me adding to their woes) have positive cases of COVID19 reported to them and are now defending (or not) their reopening processes and actions. In addition, other pubs have been highlighted over the weekend for the perceived lack of adherance to guidelines. All eyes are on pubs.
I want to focus on the positives. What can YOU do in YOUR business to prevent being the centre of a social media feeding frenzy and getting all kinds of wrong publicity?
1. Know the guidelines. Yes, they're 'only' guidelines but they're backed by laws. Know them and apply them to your business because if you don't, and there's a case (or worse - an outbreak) from your business an armchair-expert from Facebook who has never stepped foot in your pub can become your judge, jury and executioner. Whatever your personal feelings about the guidelines you have a duty of care to your employees and customers to implement them.
2. Publicise the safety precautions you have implemented in your pub. Show off your hand sanitisers, your spaced-out tables, your team in masks, your table service. Emphasise your methods for recording customer data (for Track and Trace). You may think it's overkill and that by publicising it you risk alienating some of your clientele but ask yourself this - if you're worried that your clientele won't like or adhere to the safety precautions for the safety of other customers and your team what does this say about you and your business to the customers that want to feel safe? Where will those customers spend their money?
3. If (God forbid) there is a case or an outbreak:
Tell customers exactly what's happened, what action you have taken, what action they should take (link to official government/NHS guidance only), the action you and your teams will take in the pub and when you "expect" to re-open. Don't try to hide anything, don't make jokes - be honest, be sensitive, and be authentic.
For example, something like: "We've had a reported case of COVID19 in a customer who visited us on Sunday. We will be closed as a precaution for x days for deep-cleaning and while all team members working that day obtain tests. Team members who were not working that day (and were not in contact with the infected customer) will re-open the pub on xyz after it has been thoroughly deep-cleaned throughout. We maintain records for 21 days of guests who visit our pub so we will contact those affected today to make them aware and to give them the correct government advice. We will also make the relevant authorities aware. We are continuing to adhere to all current Government guidelines. If you have concerns and would like to talk with us please call us on 01*** ******. Thanks for your understanding and co-operation; looking forward to welcoming you all back again when we re-open on X."
Compared with: "We've had a reported case of COVID19. We're now closed and will hopefully reopen Sunday from 12pm for our £9.99 roast - book now!"
4. Don't argue. How do you know you're losing an argument on social media? You're arguing on social media.....Focus on the positive comments, thank people for their time and feedback, reiterate everything you're doing to re-open safely (again). It helps, at this point, to have had a firm policy about 'no swearing' on your pub's Facebook page. Don't draft in pub team members or friends to defend the pub online - this can be smelt a mile off.
5. Keep your team informed throughout - they will be just as worried as your customers.
Get in touch with me if you need help with any of this.
Photo by Michael Morse from Pexels
Scenes in Soho on so-called #SuperSaturday were endlessly posted on Twitter. I didn’t see a single positive (sensible) comment – but plenty were calling out the irresponsibility of the bars and drinkers.
I had a brief twitter exchange with @MPSoho, the Met Police team for Soho (Amy Lame the Governments’ Night Time Czar and Mayor of London failed to respond). MPSoho said that bars were operating at a reduced capacity, not doing takeaways, and that people were bringing their own booze into the Soho area. Police were clearly visible in the photos both on the ground in the crowd and (weirdly) in some kind of lookout tower. The Sun’s PR posted a photo of herself with a £14 Soho cocktail in a weird show of solidarity (there’s a story in a sentence if ever there was one).
Soho was widely covered on mainstream media this morning and presented by some as indicative of the rest of the country. It was not. Across the country tens of thousands of responsible pub folks, after months of lockdown, took a financial hit by opening in line with government guidelines or by not opening at all. Many asked customers not adhering to guidelines to leave their venues. Let’s not forget that these guidelines – while not themselves laws – are backed-up by pretty stringent legal regulations. Police and licensing officers visited huge swathes of town and rural pubs to check they were complying.
In my own personal opinion the scenes in Soho were permitted in a “hey, look at everybody having fun rebooting the economy!” way and I’m struggling to see who the winners are.
The Government loses by appearing to have lifted restrictions too early.
The Soho bars lose as people think they are acting irresponsibly (by the way one bar is offering half-price drinks 3-8pm so tbh that might be justified).
The police lose because people are questioning why large crowds of (mainly white, middle class) were allowed to congregate while smaller, private, house parties were being raided and shut down across less trendy parts of London.
Responsible publicans lose as they spend money they don’t have to meet guidelines and operate at a reduced capacity. They they lose again as potential customers think “not likely!” and don’t visit their local for a quiet pint.
Soho last night was NOT indicative of the pub industry. You simply can’t have one rule for central London and another rule for everyone else.
I understand pubs and I understand social media. This is a personal blog and doesn't necessarily reflect the views of any persons or companies I work with/for. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org