Of all the lessons learned from the BP debacle, the most important was the first one BP learned. The internet is a powerful PR tool that can crush you quickly. Bad news gushed across the internet like…well, like a broken pipe. In the days, and now weeks, following the initial report, BP continued to make one bumbling decision after the next. It didn’t take long for every move that that BP made (many of them sluggish and poorly executed) to be scrutinized and commented upon by everyone who had an internet connection. BP quickly learned that they weren’t just managing an environmental disaster, they were managing a PR disaster – one they still haven’t grasped.
It’ll be years before the victims of this disaster recover, if at all. But, as we can’t unring that bell (or in this case, put the oil back in the pipe), we have to focus on what we can do to facilitate recovery for the lovely coastal towns whose beaches and reputations were stained by this disaster.
If you’ve got marketing dollars, now is the time to spend them.
Your tourism, visitor’s bureau, local or regional website needs to be addressing all the wonderful features of your town and reminding vacationers that you’re still open for business. If you’ve got local photographers, invite them to submit new photos and then get those photos out through Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.
Build a social media campaign, like this one run by the Jamestown Foundation that encourages past visitors to talk about their vacations and events. If you’ve got a YouTube channel, so much the better. Link to vacation videos that show your sparkling beaches, your lovely shops, your friendly locals and fantastic restaurants. Need some inspiration? Check out Currituck County, North Carolina. Now is an excellent time to invest in a pay-per-click campaign that helps users reconnect with your town or find you for the first time.
Family vacations, reunions, honeymoons and holidays are all still happening. Make sure these people know that good things are still happening at your place, too.
Melissa Baumann is a Search Marketing and Tourism Specialist as well as a seasoned world traveler.