December has been a rough month for California. What’s generally thought of as a time for celebrating the holidays has become recognized for something else this year: Santa Ana winds and fires.
On December 4, California got a taste of the latter with the start of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, followed by the Skirball Fire in Los Angeles, and the Lilac Fire in San Diego.
Instead of spreading holiday cheer, the fires distributed devastation. Evacuation orders were issued, structures were destroyed, hundreds of elite thoroughbred horses perished and several people, including a firefighter, have lost their lives.
The Thomas Fire has burned 271,750 acres and is only 50% contained. While the fire now is heading North, residents and businesses in the small town of Ojai are returning to begin cleanup. This is not an easy feat especially for the town’s 5-star resort, the Ojai Valley Inn.
As we know, the holidays often are a time when families and couples treat themselves to well-deserved vacations. Days after celebrating the annual tree-lighting ceremony, guests and staff at the Inn were forced to evacuate.
Soon after evacuation orders were lifted for the area, the Inn issued the following statement:
"As the health and safety of our employees and guests are of the utmost importance, the Inn will be undergoing a rigorous cleaning by a professional company using eco-friendly products in order to get the property back up to our standards of guest service and experience. The rehabilitation process is expected to take several days and will encompass everything from the walls of our guest rooms down to the linens. As such, Ojai Valley Inn is now scheduled to reopen on January 11."
Yes, January 11.
Guests flock to the Inn every December to experience holiday magic and attend the extravagant New Year’s Eve Gala. Not this year. Guests won’t get a chance to enjoy the holiday season at the Inn again until December 2018.
While guests slated to arrive this month at the nearly 100-year-old venue are disappointed, the Inn has made one point very clear: it will not waiver from its brand promise.
Would other resorts cut corners with the cleaning process and the health and safety of their guests to get back up and running quickly so as to avoid a tremendous financial loss? I'd prefer not to speculate. What's clear is that the Ojai Valley Inn will not.
This speaks volumes about the resort and its management team. The PR lesson from this story: Don’t compromise your brand promise. Ever.
A brand promise is a value or experience a company’s customers can expect to receive every time they interact with that company. The more a company can deliver on that promise, the stronger the brand value in the mind of customers and employees.
If you stand for something great, don’t ever make exceptions or cut corners to be anything less than the reputation you’ve achieved. If you are known for providing a 5-star experience, offering a 4-star performance won’t make the grade.
Another important lesson learned from the Inn is the importance of continuing communication when a major event occurs. Not only did the Inn press on with its “12 Days of Serenity” giveaway on Instagram, but it also shared updates and photos, including an image of fire fighters in front of the Inn and various signs posted throughout the community thanking crews for saving the town.
While the holiday magic has disappeared, the Inn deserves kudos for continuing to deliver a superior brand promise.
Editor’s Note: The author is a frequent holiday visitor at the Inn but has no professional connection to it.
Aly Jamison is principal of Jamison PR. Follow her at @alyjamison