Expertise Featured in Regard to Snowbasin PR Scenario
A not-so-appealing video hit the internet featuring a ski patroller acting in a less than customer focused manner as well dropping an f-bomb on a guest. The guests were youngish snowboarders which further fueled the stereotype of youth vs authority and gave the video more internet sharing juice. My take on the scenario from a PR and resort management perspective is featured as one of two experts on the matter on Slopefillers.
Here’s the video and below is my section of analysis on the event.
There is no tool in the PR toolbox that is going to keep that from blowing up other than sniffing out the video before it gets posted (very difficult). Once that video is out, and especially once it’s been tweeted by a few top pro athletes, there’s no stopping it. Few messages resonate more than young people being accosted for their youthful exuberance by people of authority. It’s a theme of life, not just skiing. It’s rarely caught on tape. Regardless of the details of the on-hill exchange, or the fact that the patroller did apologize on video, that video tossed a match on the smoldering angst of youth vs authority in a way that is rarely captured.
Granting that, when I first saw that video, which was very early on Wednesday, my first move would be an email to the TOP of my organization, aimed to get their full attention immediately. Something like: “We are about to face the largest staff related negative PR since Sunshine Village. We will not be able to stop it. We can only try to address it and reduce the impacts. The longer we wait to address it, the worse it will be for our business levels for years to come, our staff morale and the relationships we have with our partners. I have some scenarios for you to choose from. I would like to meet immediately to brief you.”
Hopefully that would get the head honchos attention and allow you to get the team up to speed on what’s unfolding, a few options to address it, and roll that out as soon as possible. In reality, they’ve done well to not give the mob new content to dissect. The prepared statement could have surely been more “human” and without a doubt half a day faster, which is very significant. The extent of sharing of the video grows the longer there is no Snowbasin reply as public frustration adds fuel until it’s quenched by a response. The sooner your resort can “turn the corner” by acknowledging, the smaller and more reasoned the situation will be overall. Sugarloaf kicked butt at this last year. Granted their situation was more obvious, but their speed and candor allowed them to remain the most trusted source in a situation when there were many sources. A 2 hour delay would have been unrecoverable. Speed saves.
But in general, it’s stayed a SLC and ski/snowboard story rather than national news and people are realizing that it’s more of a dust up than a real tragedy. Hopefully Snowbasin will use this as an opportunity to improve as an operation. Whether an isolated incident or not, one would think this will lead to a greater focus on guest service and staff training. Addressing the public reputation issue is also not rocket science. A series of humanizing web videos highlighting the front-line people that make Snowbasin great should be in order. Not too staged or scripted, just being themselves.
I do envision a time when Snowbasin could actually capitalize on this in some way. Much like Alec Baldwin did after the airline dust up. For instance, a comedic patrol video that showed how to not drop bombs, or when to call for backup due to excited people, something like that. Maybe next year when they want to make a splash pre-season. Self deprecation can get folks to forgive.”
Is your business or tourism office ready to handle something similar? It could happen to you.