The media recently reported on an incident involving home/vacation rental website www.Airbnb.com. It turns out that a “guest” at an Airbnb property in San Francisco vandalized the home of the lessor. According to a number of reports and the company’s own admission, Airbnb was a little slow and cavalier in its initial responses to what turned out to be a public relations crisis.
Our concerns at CommCore are what a company can do when the first reports come out that are not as up to date as the crisis manager believes. The other concern is that once media reports with a provocative question, is there a responsibility to keep covering the story?
The background: Airbnb is one of several travel marketplace sites – www.vrbo.com, www.homeaway.com are others- for individuals to rent apartments, homes and even castles directly from owners. We first learned of the incident in a posting on PRNewsOnline. The headline questioned whether the company was getting its act together or still found itself in the midst of the crisis, although it did mention the company’s new insurance policy for customers. The article concluded with the question: “It will be interesting to follow what Airbnb does post-crisis to repair both its business model and its reputation.” This is a valid question since many companies make promises that they don’t keep.
As it turns out the company CEO had sent out and posted its apology and corrective actions before this online piece hit our email box. The letter lists a number of actions the company has taken in order to repair its reputation and tighten its renting policies, including an insurance policy for all renters. As crisis counselors, we at CommCore believe these are strong corrective moves. But is it the responsibility of an article to parrot all of things the company claims it is doing?
The PRNewsOnline piece was short and appropriately skeptical. Airbnb is hopefully monitoring the internet for articles and can and should post a comment on PRNewsOnline.
As former reporters, we know that a strong headline such as “Can Airbnb Recover from its own Housing Crisis?” surely grabs attention more than a more benign headline, e.g. “Airbnb recovering from its own Housing Crisis?” The question is what responsibility does any reporter, blogger or tweeter have to be current after raising an issue like this? I believe that a follow-up is warranted when an item questions the company’s actions. What’s your view?