Traditional Public Relations versus On line Review Sites: Which Is More Credible?


Remember 10 years ago when spas were taking out print ads in magazines hoping to drum up business?

Remember when letting the world know about your business meant several thousand dollars per quarter given to a public relations firm that offered no guarantees as to whether an editor would mention you or not?

Do we really put much stock in whom or what a magazine endorses anymore?

I received a call from a national beauty magazine about a month ago. They wanted to talk to me about a partnership. For years, the same beauty establishments were winning over and over for “Best of…” I gather the magazine was looking for new story ideas. But the catch was that I had to pay them to appear in their “Best of…” issue. I said, “If this is about advertising, I am not interested.” She asked why. I said, “Because I do all of my marketing on the Internet.” She told me there was no reason for us to meet.

The new word of mouth is the on line review site(s). Every one of us has a chance to be our own publicist. When done properly, we can manage our own reputation. As each review is posted, the guests of your spa are planting the seeds that public relations would demand thousands of dollars to create.

Spa-goers no longer need to rely on a magazine’s “Best of…” issue to find a wonderful spa. As I service spa guests, every one of them seems to know that when a spa is mentioned by an editor, the spa paid them to talk about them.

Any time my business was mentioned in the press, I paid an arm and a leg for the tiny little blurb that resulted because of it. The lesson I learned is that the press I received didn’t really send me the clients I was meant to have. My business became more of a tourist attraction until that piece of press ran its course.

But as Citysearch gained momentum in 2002, our phones started ringing. We began to attract a youthful client base that searched via the Internet to find spa services. The universe was bringing my business more referrals than any public relations campaign would have generated. 

As Yelp, Google and DemandForce have all created on line review platforms, business owners have the ability to respond to positive and negative posts from their guests. I have reached out to almost every reviewer. I have either thanked the user or offered to address their concerns. Addressing their concerns honestly without taking any tone, clears any negativity that may ripple through the on line community. Putting it out to the universe that you are willing to resolve any issues a guest may have had in your business diffuses the situation.

People turn to the Internet to have the last word as they hide behind their computers and attempt to punch holes in your spa’s reputation. However, I have found that if I explain what took place in the spa that prompted the reviewer to use such strong language against us, they usually abandon their Yelp profile and are silenced from pulling a stunt like this with another business. They cease to post anything else because the entire scenario was explained (in my response) including the pertinent facts they chose to leave out.

As spa owners, we have the ability to control our on line presence without the hefty price tag. Each testimonial a guest posts about their spa experience will remain for months creating a valuable tool for others. It keeps us on our toes to maintain the service users are sharing. On line reviews also have a longer shelf life than press pieces which are often archived. If you grow a healthy business and allow your reputation to take shape in a reasonable length of time, you will have a stronger foundation of support from your client base.