19 Days of Crisis for The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera
When L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant booked a room at this exclusive get-a-way destination the staff and management did not consider it unusual, more like routine. However, on one particular July summer day, the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera became a household name. Its phones were jammed – not with reservations but with hundreds of reporters seeking more information regarding Bryant and a rape allegation originating from a member of the hotel’s staff. With no crisis plan in place, Cordillera attorneys advised hotel staff to direct all incoming calls to an answering machine. Their next call was to Pete Webb. The media needed immediate response, but Cordillera needed to maintain the integrity and privacy of the hotel.
All media calls were immediately redirected to the Webb office where a designated Webb spokesperson was in crisis management mode. Within an hour of being hired, a statement, messages and a fact sheet were drafted. Despite the volume, media calls were answered.
All access to the property was limited to hotel guests and staff. Webb anticipated reporters would attempt to gain access illegally, and had security stepped up. Employees were instructed not to talk about the pending legal issue to anyone, despite the fact that several reporters checked in to the resort. National tabloids even attempted to bribe staff, offering $20,000 for photos and details about the employee involved. These reporters were swiftly told to leave.
Round the clock spokesperson availability, and a carefully negotiated pool photo shoot began to assuage the media frenzy. Fifty to 100 media contacts a day continued through the first week. After three weeks, the Eagle County District Attorney decided to press charges and the media focus shifted to the DA’s office and away from Cordillera.
Results: Quick, decisive crisis communication strategy kept the client’s response on message through a single voice. Thousands of members of the media got answers. The clients were grateful for Webb’s counsel. The exclusive property was able to maintain the right balance between media response and reputation management. In fact, as the crisis died down, reporters, grasping for new angles, ran several stories on Cordillera as a place known for guest privacy and exclusivity. Bookings actually surged.