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Like any great speech, CEO videos about the coronavirus crisis need to be straightforward, authentic, and personal — and most important there needs to be substance to reinforce the message. Some brands have been able to deliver these crisis communications messages much better than others.

Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, the CEO message to employees, partners and customers has become a thing, a mandatory exercise, and whether done internally to employees or publicized to the public, many travel industry bigwigs have gotten the word out via video.

Skift looked at five such CEO video messages from travel leaders, from Arne Sorenson of Marriott International, Ed Bastian of Delta Air Lines, acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle of MGM Resorts, Richard Fain of Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Steve Kaufer of Tripadvisor.

We’ll present some fundamental best practices, and then show you the videos.

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Be Authentic, Make It Personal, Use Emotion

The best CEO video messages during this global crisis combine emotion with substance. Arne Sorenson’s video stood out for authenticity when he said in a quivering voice in referring to furloughing thousands of employees, “I can tell you I have never had a more difficult moment than this one.”

That statement, of course, came from a guy who addressed employees while battling pancreatic cancer, and acknowledging that some of his staff were concerned with the optics of delivering the address with a shaven head.

He brilliantly tied together his personal struggle with Marriott’s worst crisis ever.

“I feel good and my team and I are 100 percent focused on facing the common crisis we face,” said.

Speaking in what looked like a study at home, Delta’s Ed Bastian also seemed authentic in his delivery. We doubt he was speaking off the cuff but his talk appeared unscripted.

Bill Hornbuckle of MGM Resorts seemed credible when talking about the fact that he became acting CEO a few days before the video, adding that despite the crisis he’d rather be there working with employees and partners than anywhere else.

While undoubtably heartfelt, Steve Kaufer’s video message to Tripadvisor partners seemed somewhat wooden, and was devoid of anecdotes about how the crisis has affected him personally. As with Kaufer, adding a personal touch would help any of these CEO video messages.

Be Specific About Solutions

As the crisis came down, CEOs had to weigh the tradeoff between having specific remedial steps for employees, partners or consumers at the ready versus getting the word out fast as a way to reassure the target audience.

Sorenson’s video was the best off the five we reviewed on specific solutions as he succinctly detailed about a dozen steps, from suspending brand advertising and new-hotel initiatives to executive salary cuts and  closing restaurants, that Marriott is taking to cope.

Richard Fain of Royal Caribbean, who was primarily speaking to travel agent partners, lacked much in specifics, as did the video from Kaufer of Tripadvsor. The latter video had too many statements about how the company was exploring ways to assist various partners and that they should stay tuned for more information, although there were some concrete relief measures cited for restaurants.

Humor Works Even in This Crisis

Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Fain video worked in some respects because it was sincere and interspersed with humor. He quipped that his wardrobe had suffered while working from home.

Referring to travel agents’ sales representatives at the cruise line, Fain said: “Call them, better yet, videoconference them so you can see what everybody looks like in a t-shirt.”

Don’t Sugarcoat Things But Be Upbeat

All of the CEOs imparted the message that there are better days ahead while not minimizing the impact to their companies, employees or partners.

For example, Hornbuckle of MGM said he had no doubt that employees would be their to nurture and entertain travelers when its properties reopen.

Delta’s Bastian had a similar theme. “We have the very finest professionals that work here at Delta,” he said. “They are here for you when you need us, when travel picks up. I can assure you we’re gonna be ready to take you places you need to go like never before with smiles on our face and with confidence in our hearts.”

Royal Caribbean’s Fain urged travel advisors to be constructive during this downtime. “I encourage you to use this weird, unworldly time to better prepare for the better times ahead.”

Tell Us What You’ve Learned

Delta’s Bastian tried to relay a silver lining in that the airline has learned things because of these dire times. He said the airline will institutionalize more thorough sanitization of cabins and facilities.

“We have doubled and tripled down with respect to cleaning,” Bastian said.

Have an Effective Summary at the End

Any public speaker should know that a concise summary at the end of an address hammers home the themes that needed to be emphasized. For example, referring to Delta’s 90,000 employees, Bastian said: “They are here for you when you need us. When travel picks up, I can assure you we are going to be ready to take you places that you need to go like never before with smiles on our face and confidence in our hearts.”

Don’t Make Them a One-Time Thing

The Covid-19 crisis is not going away anytime soon so there are plenty of opportunities for travel CEOs to hone their video messages and to stay in touch with their target audiences. Fain of Royal Caribbean Cruises, for examples, has delivered a couple of such videos in recent weeks.

A Professionally Produced Video Doesn’t Hurt

Little things mean a lot when it comes to video production. Bastian’s video message had a deftly executing departing touch, the whoosh of a plane taking off with a final message on the screen, “Keep Climbing/Delta.”

Here are the CEO videos:

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian

MGM Resorts Acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle

Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain

Tripadvisor CEO Steve Kaufer


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Tags: ceos, delta, marketing, marriott, mgm, royal caribbean, tripadvisor, video

Photo credit: Delta CEO Ed Bastian addresses customers about the coronavirus crisis in a video March 29, 2020 Delta Air Lines

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