Flash Communications

Tales from a student-PR agency at Kent State University

PR in the News: Erin Andrews lawsuit causes trouble for Marriott

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By: Victoria Manenti and Hanna Moore

Erin Andrews was awarded $55 million in her lawsuit against the owner of the Nashville Marriott and her stalker in the case over a secretly filmed nude video.

Andrews, an ESPN reporter at the time, was staying at the hotel, when her long-time stalker Michael Barrett compromised her peephole and was able to film into her room. He was able to find her because a hotel employee honored his request to stay in the room next to hers.

The jury found that Barrett was 51 percent at fault for the incident and liable for 51 percent of the $55 million award, and Windsor Capital Group, the hotel management company, was responsible for the remaining 49 percent.

Not only is this a legal issue but also a huge public relations crisis.

The defense team for the Windsor Capital Group argued that Andrews gained publicity due to the video, which she used to help her career.

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This was a poor choice for Windsor Capital Group because instead of seeming sympathetic to Andrews’ situation, they were accusatory and demeaning.

Another party involved is Marriott International, which was not directly involved in the case but was still associated with Windsor Capital Group. They took no responsibility for the incident, saying in a statement,

“This trial is between Ms. Andrews and the owner of the hotel, the franchisee and Michael David Barrett.”

This case shed light on the security of guests, particularly women, at popular hotel chains. It sparked the question of whether hotel employee are properly trained when asked to reveal guests’ personal information.

The Today Show studied this issue, sending Jeff Rossen and his producer undercover to Hilton, Marriott, Radisson and Crowne Plaza hotels. Rossen’s producer checked in first, and he followed, requesting to stay in the room next to hers.

He had no connection to her or information about her, besides her name. Marriott was the only chain to deny his request, and the other three hotel accommodated his request, even offering more information than he asked for.

The three hotels that were found to give out guests’ room information each released a canned statement saying that they were concerned and that the issue was being taken seriously. These responses should have been more detailed by mentioning specific precautions that they planned to take, due to the lack of sympathy in the messaging.

This presents a major public relations problem for these hotels, and we are curious to see how these security issues will be handled in the future.

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Author: Hanna Moore

Senior PR student with a passion for social media, late night talk shows, puppies and iced coffee.

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