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For a German Hotel, What's the Antidote For Laura Bush's Poisoning Charge?

What is a hotel to do when a former first lady accuses you of poisoning the President of the United States?

Laura Bush's new memoir, "Spoken From the Heart," says that while at the G8 summit in Germany in 2007, she believed that she, George W. Bush and members of their entourage were poisoned while staying at the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm. The hotel denies the allegations, calling them a publicity stunt.

From The Guardian:

According to the New York Times, Laura Bush says that when the American delegation fell sick, the US secret service was called in to investigate but doctors put it down to a virus. "We never learned if any other delegations became ill, or if ours, mysteriously, was the only one," she writes.

There is no readily available record of what was served to the Bushes that Thursday night or who had access to the food. It is normal for the US secret service as a precaution against poisoning to prepare all meals for presidents travelling abroad, which adds to the mystery surrounding this visit.

I think the passage where the Secret Service normally makes the president's food casts a skeptical light on Laura Bush's allegation. Many speculate that the poisoning story is simply a sensational piece of fluff to push copies of her book, and that Bush's own Homeland Security adviser didn't believe they were poisoned. Instead, most reports say that doctors concluded it was a stomach virus.

Still, that didn't stop hotel spokesman Christian Ploeger issuing a statement to counteract any negative press on an incident that occurred three years ago. So what else can a hotel do to counter a poisonous allegation?

  • Make your media time count. With such a public story, the media is bound to come calling and that's free publicity. This is your time to stay on message and turn it to your advantage. Some outrage is good, but for the most part everyone - including Dr. Drew - thinks the poison allegations are ludicrous. The world is behind you, so don't ruin it by keeping silent or not having a sense of humor.
  • Find testimonials. What respected figures or people has your business served well? Yes, it's called stacking the deck, but your hotel now needs someone to talk it up and you need them to do it publicly now. Bring them along on your press junket or at least have them call in.
  • Step up your game. If you don't have a chef in your kitchen that hasn't run a restaurant with three Michelin stars, find one now (and with that, be sure to get your own kitchen rated highly.) Make sure your kitchen is spotless, so anyone touring is pleasantly surprised. Ensure that all kitchen staff are top-notch and any food is tasty and, above all, fresh. If you haven't updated your menu in a few years, now is the time.
  • Treat your guests well. Hold a reception for guests with complimentary appetizers. What your hotel needs is excellent word-of-mouth from your customers. Make them as comfortable as possible and give them samples of your cuisine so that they can refute any allegation that your hotel's food is less than excellent.
Photo: Grand Hotel Heiligendamm
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