A Strictly PR Perspective on PCMR vs Talisker
In recent days Park City Mountain Resort released a coordinated internet blitz publicizing a lawsuit they have filed against their neighboring owner group Talisker, which owns and operates Canyons Resort. I am not going to comment on the validity of the lawsuit or who may be in the right.
This lawsuit has a marketing department on day 1.
I am going to comment on some of the PR tactics being employed by PCMR in announcing this issue into the public realm. I have not confirmed these tactics nor would any good PR department grant them, just analyzing them at my face value based on about a decade in ski business PR. PCMR may be quickly successful (or not) and there are many items to analyze regarding their chosen method, which seems to be breaking new ground as far as public pressure tactics within the ski industry in the internet/social media era. This sort of neighborly full court public press is new.
Recap and analysis:
On Friday, March 9 PCMR published a website dedicated to rallying public support around a lawsuit they have filed against their neighbor over some land use negotiations, or lack thereof. This was then highlighted across all of their typical public online and social channels. Bam! Legal proceedings (from PCMR perspective) were now public fodder and the internet ran with it. The website features photos of their staff, their attractive female President, and has many mentions of “we may be forced to close” if Talisker gets their way sort of statements with mentions of potential large job losses. There is also heavy use of terms like “conglomerate” in regard to Talisker while PCMR’s ownership is highlighted as local.
PCMR also simultaneously published a series of sympathetic videos telling the life stories of their high level staff talking about their childhoods, their children and staff members who have beaten disease then decided to work at PCMR.
These were released within minutes of the supportpcmr.com website launch
The idea that the assets of PCMR would be completely “shut down” as noted on the PCMR website seems highly unlikely (with the tax dollars at stake – just an opinion), but spreading that idea is far more effective in rallying the public than a statement like “our neighbor may take over due to an unresolved land dispute”. Also of note is that in the summary of complaint it is stated that the owner of PCMR has filed lawsuit, but the staff of PCMR are highlighted in all other channels. It is an owner vs owner lawsuit. The PR angle works better as a PCMR vs “conglomerate” however, which is what we are seeing highlighted.
Regardless of the details of the legal debate, Talisker has been painted as an Enron before saying a word. None of this is accidental. Unless Talisker and thus Canyons Resort wants to get into a highly public tit for tat against the more experienced marketing team at PCMR, they now have new reasons to get this behind them quickly. Their options short of a publicly persuasive rollout are to get to the table quickly with PCMR, allow courts to rule quickly, or fire back and risk creating a nearly toxic operating environment for all resorts in their region and negative publicity for Utah skiing.
Again – this is not a comment on their legal dispute, just the perception world Talisker and thus Canyons finds themselves in due to the PR tactics employed by their neighbor, especially until an equally coordinated statement comes out. An additional factor working against Talisker is that they are “starting from behind” in their region after a history of operational decisions that irked the locals. PCMR simply has more local support in recent years. They are putting it to use.
Gaining momentum by the hour.. Talisker needs to tell their side or settle soon.
The primary potential backfire for the PCMR team with this tactic is attaching the faces of their staff and management to a potentially muddy and negative issue. Yes it may help to win in the court of public opinion, but if it does not resolve itself quickly, their personal brands can become intertwined with the legal issue. I.E. the resort may achieve their goal in the end, but with negative impacts on the personnel used to achieve it. It’s possible the actual legal dispute is minor enough that the public push from PCMR will wrap it up quickly and everyone will hug it out. That said, going very public could also be a measure of last resort. That’s not for me to know.
Side note – the Twitter and Facebook links from the “support PCMR” website will surely get lots of national and international media hits. These links take visitors to the official resort profiles, not ones specifically for this issue. When this is all in the rearview mirror, PCMR will have thousands of new skiers, snowboarders, legislators and media in their social networks to talk to.
So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.
This statement of reply from Talisker was published on the Park Record’s website at the bottom of an article covering the unfolding events.
“PCMR’s lease of Talisker’s land expired in 2011. Talisker has offered PCMR new lease terms, and the parties have been in discussions regarding such new lease terms, which are subject to an agreement of confidentiality.
We had hoped to reach terms on the new lease that would be fair to both parties. Unfortunately it appears that PCMR is attempting to use litigation to better its position, and avoid reaching a mutually fair outcome.
At no time in these negotiations has Talisker contemplated or threatened to close Park City Mountain. We believed the negotiations were continuing and we are disappointed by PCMR’s action today.”