Having worked in the hospitality industry, and obviously the digital marketing industry, for many years, this story really fascinated me.

The recent banning of a blogger by a hotel in Dublin has caused much debate. Was the blogger wrong to ask for a freebie? Was the hotel wrong to ban them? Probably more importantly, was the hotel wrong to handle it all so publicly?

If you missed the story, check out Mashable’s excellent write-up on it, but I’ll summarise…

A blogger contacted an Irish hotel asking for a free stay on Valentine’s Day in return for blogging about their experience. The hotel thought this was disrespectful and told them to pay for their hotel room like everyone else. However, this was done in the most public of channels –  Facebook – which didn’t go down too well with the blogger. The hotel proceeded to ban ALL bloggers.

I should point out now that the hotel is totally within their right to do this. Having said that though, I find their approach to the whole situation old-fashioned and quite frankly, classless.

Firstly, I don’t really like dealing with this kind of thing in public. It’s like dealing with a complaint. My view is respond and take it offline and deal with it there. This wasn’t even in the public domain so they made the conscious effort to put it there. My approach would also be respectful and reply to the email saying ‘we can’t facilitate your request’.

Or alternatively, just ignore the request. Working in the hospitality industry for many years, I got hundreds, if not thousands, of similar requests. Some ‘bloggers’ had no online presence whatsoever, which led me to believe they just wanted a freebie. My simple solution – nice try no thanks. Ignore!

The second point I think is more important, which is keeping up with the times. Some bloggers are more powerful than any journalist. They have a very specific and loyal following. What they say is taken as red by their fans and that can’t be underestimated. That’s why when choosing whether to allow a blogger a freebie should be carefully considered – are they the right fit for your brand?

I’m not saying this blogger was the right fit, but there will be a blogger somewhere – with the right audience – that fits this hotel, so dismissing them all is narrow minded.

I’m sure when this hotel opened, or had a revamp, they will have had a press launch inviting journalists to write-up about their hotel. When you think about it, there’s actually little difference. Inviting an ‘influential’ person to review your product for free in exchange for exposure via their channels.

Times change and keeping up is vital to stay ahead and keep your business performing. Good bloggers, not the ones that are just after free stuff, want to work for their clients and they’re basically doing what their journalist counterparts have been doing for years.

Having said that, the exposure this particular hotel has got on the back of all this has been so much more than what the blogger will have provided. So maybe I’m the one who’s out of touch (I sincerely hope not!) and this was a PR masterstroke… I’ll let you decide.