Zika, the Oil Spill and Help for Communicators

August 19, 2016

by Kim Stangle

One of the most important client success stories we’ve told in the last decade has been about our work for South Walton (the Tourist Development Council) on the heels of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  With tourism as its main economic driver, the destination faced a crisis of epic proportions when news of the spill hit and visitors feared the pristine white-sand beaches they loved would be covered in tar balls.

Deepwater_Horizon_offshore_drilling_unit_on_fire_2010

Our team worked alongside the TDC’s communication staff to develop a crisis communication plan that would ensure visitors would continue booking trips as they’d done for so many years before.  The plan included scenario-based messaging; a blog that was updated daily to show real-time images of beach conditions; and, a variety of other communication tools.

Ultimately, the drop in bookings was a fraction of what initial research indicated was possible and they rebounded dramatically in the years to follow.

It’s hard not to immediately draw comparisons to the latest news coming out of South Florida—Miami Beach, specifically—where the latest Zika outbreaks are crippling an otherwise bustling tourism spot.

While an oil spill is hardly the same as a mosquito-transmitted virus, the communication challenges are similar.  Perception is a powerful motivator of fear and communicators must work to provide a constant flow of accurate information if they seek to separate fact from fiction.

For help with crisis communications and other public relations issues, check out our case studies and white papers.


A Different Take on the Deepwater Horizon

July 6, 2010

by Roger Pynn

Most of the photos and video we’ve seen of things related to the Gulf oil incident have been pretty scary the last two months, but Sandestin Beach & Golf Resort P.R. & Marketing Director Laurie Hobbs turned that around with beautiful photos of a wedding on her beachfront.

Laurie’s a longtime pro and it is no surprise coming from her, but this was a great reminder of the power of pictures.  There’s been so much misunderstanding about the impact of the Gulf incident on the beautiful coastline of Beaches of South Walton in Northwest Florida.

We regularly post updates at www.BSWUpdate.com, a website we’ve created to help the 15 communities of Beaches of South Walton keep the public informed with candid, factual reports on what is happening … which, by the way, has turned out to be – despite all the gloom and doom you hear – that “our beaches are open for enjoyment.”

Of course, when Laurie sent us pictures of this wedding, they immediately went up on BSWUpdate.com along with dozens of other stunning photos that come in every day from the 26 miles of beachfront there.

And when Steve Hartman of CBS News showed up to tape the occasion for “Assignment: America,” it was icing on the wedding cake … for Laurie, for Sandestin, for Beaches of South Walton and, I’m sure for Krista Davis and Blake Monroe, the happy couple who stayed informed and held on to their dream of a beachside wedding.


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