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.

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