La Quinta's open invitation and access for the trade press to attend its brand council meeting last week was a great idea. The brand prides itself on being different and last week's event was proof of that. The invite came in many ways because La Quinta decided against holding a national conference this year, the traditional time and place where the media gets an inside look at the company's performance and future plans. The brand council meeting felt like a school board meeting—except that it was a bit more fun (trust me, I've slept through a couple during my time in the newspaper world). The execs, from Wayne Goldberg and Raj Trivedi on down, were loose and laid back. It was clear they took the job and day's events seriously, but they weren't afraid to give, and mostly take, some good natured ribbing to, and from, facilitator Lee Dusher, the franchisees and some media members.
The event was a great way to inform the media of La Quinta's results and upcoming plans, but also to offer an inside look at the company's unique approach. It was relaxed and casual, franchisees clearly had a voice and the company didn't pull any punches, with franchisees or the media. It was a refreshing experience and I don't think La Quinta would have done things any differently had the media not been there.
I think the only other news that came from the day, in the media roundtable after the council meeting, was the fact that La Quinta will definitely have a conference in 2011 at a yet-to-be-announced location in March.