Five crisis PR tips for Florida during the BP oil crisis
Jonathan Priestley, account manager at Leeds based Umpf explains his five ideas that the US state of Florida could do to try and reverse the impact that it has seen to tourism figures as a result of the BP oil leak off of its coast.
Dealing with an ecological disaster is more than just addressing its environmental impact; it’s about challenging people’s perceptions of how ‘tourist-ready’ a destination is, regardless of how it has been portrayed. Challenging perceptions of Florida as one giant oil slick are essential if the tourist industry is to bounce back quickly. All PR activity should focus on selling Florida’s key assets whilst constantly reminding potential visitors that the state is still open for business and the effects of the oil slick, whilst serious, are limited to a particular geographic area.
1 – ‘Mickey Mouse’ PR - Florida is known the world over for its theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios. Key messages should focus on the fact that most of these are located in and around Orlando, which is landlocked and far from the affected West Florida coastline. What’s more, with plenty of water parks also located nearby, tourists can still relax on the beach (albeit a man-made one) and lap up the Florida sunshine, without so much as a passing thought for oil spills or Tony Hayward.
2 – Focus on key East Coast destinations - Miami as a city-break, Daytona Beach for the racing or Cocoa Beach for white sands and crystal-clear waters – The east coast of Florida is, as yet, unscathed by the oil spill and this message should be loud and clear in all PR activity
3 – Hollywood moves to Florida – An initiative to encourage Hollywood celebrities to holiday in Florida this year, with paparazzi snapping A-listers on the beach, in the clubs of Miami and visiting the theme parks of Orlando. The resultant PR coverage should enforce the message that Florida is still a major tourist destination that can meet the needs of even the most picky of film stars and hopefully reposition it as an aspirational destination for tourists from across the globe.
4 – “Tony Hayward Hits the Beach” (tongue in cheek) – The Florida Tourist Industry launches a world-wide campaign to get as many people with the name ‘Tony Hayward’ to come to Florida, be snapped on the beach and to post blogs/tweets about how clean the beaches are, how much they’re enjoying their stay etc. Visit Florida could also offer discounts to all Tony Haywards to incentivise travel to the state. Photo stunt as the world’s largest collection of Tony Haywards hit the beach with the message ‘Tony Hayward says “Florida Beaches still open for business”’
5 – Message in a bottle – Visit Florida takes the famous white sand from the state’s beaches and mails this to prominent travel journalists across the world, with the message ‘If you’re not sure how clean our beaches are, here’s the proof’. The sand bottle will be accompanied by key tourist information, special offers and upcoming promotions for travel to the state, to assist with travel profiles, late deals and other press coverage.