Sunday, April 16, 2006

How to handle a PR nightmare

Over the last month, the Public Relations juggernaught that Disney released has been pushing the new attraction at the Animal Kingdom -- Expedition Everest. This is a roller-coaster thrill ride set against the myth (?) of the Yeti, also called the Abominable Snowman, in the Himalayas. Disney has initiated numerous television shows about the real Mt. Everest and tied in the attraction to the plot or coverage. I have noticed a new show nearly every day on one cable station or another. They have invited press from all over the world to fill their rooms and participate in the opening week of the ride.

Then, in the midst of all of this self-generated hoopla with hundreds of reporters and media people around, another Disney thrill-ride is blamed for the death of a visitor. This tragic turn is bad enough in the normal course of events, but to have it happen at a time you have invited the media to your business location, and specifically for the openeing of another thrill ride is the kind of thing that keeps most PR folks awake at night.

How Disney handles this will be critical for their near future. Unfortunately, the public and media has a short attention span for such stories, but I have seen several instances of writers digging up other guests with negative experiences on such rides. You can almost feel the cross-hairs on Mickey Mouse.


People generally want and need to be recognized for their accomplishments. It validates their contributions while letting them know that their work is worthwhile and being noticed. In our organization, we have an Exceptional Achievement Award program for company-wide recognition. There are politics involved in getting a nomination approved that the general employee-base doesn't understand. As a manager, we have to be sure that we are recognizing the right people, and they are being rewarded for their contribution and not someone else's. It could otherwise be easy to upset just as many people as you reward if you were to fold someone else's contribution into the award.

Our award is not large; it's merely $100 and a certificate. For highly compensated staff, it's but a drop in the bucket. I find the amazing thing being that the highly paid seem to value being presented with the award much more so that the staff at the lower end of the pay scale. I still haven't been able to reconcile this to my own satisfaction though. For the lower paid, $100 can represent more the net value of a whole day's pay, while barely a few hours for more senior staff. The entry-level staff sometimes leave their certificates laying around or file them in drawers. I have even seen some show up in the paper recycling. But the senior staff generally mount them on their walls in a conspicuous location for all to see.

I find it a bit surprising that the award has such a profound effect on senior staff while only a minimal impact on entry-level staff. I'll have to think more about this and, should I have a revelation, post it here.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Upcoming visit to Disney

Disney has such a good offer for members of the Disney Golf Club that I decided to go down to Orlando next week and play a few rounds. I managed to get tee times at Magnolia and Lake Buena Vista. Watch this blog for more info on how I embarrass myself on two PGA quality courses.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Another Pretty Neat Tool

After looking at the USA map, I found one that does a world map. Here are my travels.

You can map your own at World Map

A Pretty Neat Tool

I found mention of this site on CNET. It give you a visual representation of where you've traveled in the U.S. I filled it in for states where I remember being. There are probably a few more I missed, but what the heck. That's 30 down and 20 to go.

You can create your own map by visiting them at USA Map

Friday, March 17, 2006

I should've known better

I got up early and went for a nice walk. Temperature was around 50 degrees and it was sunny. Students were all about, going to classes, jogging, taking in the great morning. A brisk trip around the campus revealed a lot of UCLA I hadn't known and was quite impressed.

After returning to the hotel and packing, I checked out and got a taxi. I wasn't about to trust the shuttle again. The driver was quite pleasant; an Iranian who had been in LA for about 25 years. We had very interesting conversation and it made the ride pleasant. I moved through the airport a lot faster than I had anticipated. The only real delay was at the X-ray when a family in front of me that didn't speak English wouldn't follow the directions of the TSA people. I got to my gate 90 minutes ahead of schedule and decided it was time to have a drink and grab a bite to eat. Malibu Al's Beach Bar was my selection as they were near the gate, had a decent selection of draft beer, and offered pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. After a good draft Sam Adams and a CPK Pepperoni Pizza, I felt normal again -- and a little spoiled.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Back in the saddle again

Finally traveling again as the Spring season is upon us. Today's journey is to Los Angeles for a meeting at UCLA. I'm going out on Tuesday and back on Wednesday. My travel folks really did me right and managed to use FF points to get me into first class on Delta. My past experiences with First Class on Delta have left a lot to be desired and, other than free drinks, not much better than coach on other airlines. However, this time I was pleasantly surprised at the experience.

The short hop from Baltimore to Cincinatti was uneventful but comfortable. I had all of 35 minutes to walk from one end of Delta's terminal to the other, just enough time to do it leisurely but not enough for checking out any shops. Then, the 757 from Cincinatti to LA was much better. Food was pretty good, the attendants were extremely attentive and exceptionally nice. The only complaint was having to watch the movie on the small monitor over the aisle. My neck was sore from looking up and, being a few rows back from the monitor, the images were often confusing and blurry. Fortunately, I had just watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at home with my kids the night before the trip.

We ran into a lot of turbulence, not rough, but constant. It was a bit odd landing in southern California and having it be colder at 10am than it was leaving Baltimore at 5 am. I do regret not having a window seat as the scenery looked spectacular through the clear skies.

Then came the shuttle ride of horrors. Super Shuttle will never get my business again. I had a reservation I made personally, but it was still almost an hour wait for a shuttle, which then proceeded to circle the airport four times until he had packed the van completely full. By the time I got to the hotel, it was over two hours after I landed. A cab would have had me there within a half hour.

The Hilgard House, just off the UCLA campus, is a quaint little hotel facility near the center of Westwood Village. From there, you can get to most of the campus and all of the popular eateries in the Village pretty easily on foot. The rooms aren't large, but they are comfortable and very clean. I recommend it if you need to visit the area.

My meeting, held at the Faculty Center, went well. Afterwards, we were treated to a wonderful reception on the lanai with shrimp, sushi, and other good food. To my surprise, I was invited to dine with the event sponsors and Association leadership afterwards in the restaurant in the facility. The only thing that surprised me more was the quality of the food and wine they served. I would put it up against any restaurant.

'twas a pleasant walk back to the hotel. I was feeling the time difference as it was about 9:30 but felt significantly later and I was tired. The walk was cool and refreshing. It is the beginning of Spring Break for UCLA students and they were out in force on such a wonderful evening; partying on balconies, sitting on stairs and benches. It seemed like a pretty nice environment.