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Running Your Own Halloween Haunted Attraction? You Need PR and Social Media.

By Alex Greenwood

Just chillin’ like a villain. (Tweet this, will ya?)Every September, the fever grips me. I gleefully examine the latest arrivals of spooky stuff at the store. I check my podcast stream for new episodes of The Halloween Haunt podcast (rest in peace, Hauntcast) and start doodling ways to make my little green corner house the spookiest on the block. I actually look for fun (safe), ways to scare little children.

I’ll admit it. I am a Halloween fanatic.

Why? I think much of it has to do with a visceral delight I (and many other “normal” humans) get from being frightened. I won’t psychoanalyze myself any further; suffice it to say I love Halloween and a good scare.

Apparently, so do many others. As writer Steve Cooper wrote in Forbes

"Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their pocketbook—next to Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, according to Alliance Data Retail Services (ADRS), a marketing and customer loyalty solutions provider. "

It gets better. According to America Haunts, there are at least 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission nationwide every year, with 300 amusement parks “dressing up” for Halloween and more than 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one of two weekends in October.

"The site also reports that the typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 guests, depending on the market and size of the attraction. Some attractions do exponentially better. The haunted attraction industry generates between $300 and $500 million in ticket sales per year."

There’s even a trade group: The Haunted Attraction Association.

"Imagine: this half a billion-dollar industry basically thrives in a six-week window once a year. If you own a haunted attraction, it better be good, it better be accessible…and people better know BOO about it. If you have a haunted attraction, you have to be damn good at marketing it, or you’re not going to make it (there are virtual graveyards of failed haunt attractions out there)."

Forget for a moment that we’re talking about haunted houses. Let’s talk about any product or industry–for example, aluminum siding. Do you need aluminum siding every day? No. Every week? No. Every year? Probably not. Yet what do you see on local TV? Commercials for aluminum siding. Why? Do the aluminum siding salespersons presume everyone watching will “Call now”? No. What they assume is one of two things:

1. Some people out there in TV land do need siding in the near future, so why not reach out to them?

2. Many viewers will eventually need siding, so they want their company to be “top of mind” when that day comes.

It’s a basic precept of marketing–if people don’t know about  you, they’ll never buy anything from you. This means that even if what you sell is a rare purchase, you better make sure your name is out there.

Let’s apply this rule to haunted attractions.

One thing I see over and over (with a few notable exceptions) is that haunted attractions do a lackluster job of keeping in touch with patrons throughout the year. Now, no, I do not believe you should run a TV ad in February for your haunted house. It would be weird. (Though I do think a little pattern interrupt–say, an ad in July is a good idea–but that’s not the point.) No, you should not be running ads year-round. However, you should be doing something else to keep your name out there. You should be active in social media.

Wait, wait. Come back!

Here’s the good news: it’s free (of charge, generally). The bad news: it takes time, and if you do not consistently participate, it doesn’t work.

So, being active on social media costs you time and creativity, year round. The benefits? If you maintain a consistent, entertaining presence on your Twitter of Terror, Gothic Google +, Fearsome Facebook, Icky Instagram and even Lethal LinkedIn, you can foster a regular, top of mind relationship with haunted attraction fans. This way, when your hot and heavy marketing push starts in September, you’ll have an army of brand ambassadors ready to help you spread the word.

"Can you imagine the increased bang for your TV buck if  hundreds of fans share your TV spot on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook? What if you have social media-inflamed excitement building over ticket or fastpass giveaways, or people posting pics with your scareactors from the wait line outside your attraction on Instagram?"

And what if your haunt space is used for special events or other commerce the rest of the year? Social media is a great way to let your fans know what’s happening when the lights are on and the monsters are in storage.

It’s  horrifically fun to create an affordable social media (and or PR) strategy to market your haunt. Don’t be scared!

Alex Greenwood owns AGPR is Kansas City, MO. Reach him on Twitter @A_Greenwood or on his website at


Crisis Response: You must be swift, you must be decisive, but above all, you must be accurate


In the weeks following the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash, Lufthansa Group and its Chief Executive Carsten Spohr faced tremendous pressure as they crafted messaging for customers, employees, investors and the general public. PR practitioners (myself included) have closely observed the company’s response strategy unfold. One of the biggest twists came in late March, when Lufthansa said it knew of the pilot’s depression diagnosis, but did not prevent him from working.

The recent history of flight disasters underscores the critical need for airlines to deploy swift and decisive crisis communication, but not at the expense of accuracy.

My evaluation of Lufthansa’s crisis response aligns most closely with that of Scott Farrell, president of global corporate communication for Golin, who is quoted in this Wall Street Journal article:

Mr. Spohr deserves credit for his timely appearance before the media, and his genuine and heartfelt comments. However, in the need to be timely he became victim to a phenomenon we call ‘the fog of crisis’…Companies in the early hours of a crisis are best off telling media and others only what they know, and that they’re in the process of gathering facts and information rather than speculating. In a crisis, credibility is king and this is the best way to preserve that valuable asset.

Photo credit: “D-AKNF A319 Germanwings” by Mark Harkin licensed under CC 2.0 


Making a Difference with Media Relations

By Hope Brown, APR

Principal, PublicCity PR

 If you ask the average six-year-old what he or she dreams of becoming when they grow up, I’m betting “public relations professional” doesn’t rank high on the roster of responses…you know, probably somewhere just behind fairy princess or superhero, I assume.   That said, even a “grown-up PR professional” can feel like they’re making a difference in the world, if given the opportunity.  The team at PublicCity PR (PCPR) was recently given such an opportunity, thanks to our partners at Brogan & Partners, and the dedicated team at the Michigan Women’s Foundation (MWF).  Together – with the support of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Crime Commission (DCC) – we launched Enough SAID (Sexual Assault in Detroit) – a public/private partnership and fundraising campaign, which to date has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions, some of which can be directly attributed to media relations efforts.   More on that to come…

In 2009, more than 11,000 unopened, untested rape kits were discovered in a Detroit Police Department storage unit.  The kits represented thousands of unprosecuted sexual assault cases, and potentially thousands of sex offenders still on the streets.  Due to economic constraints in Detroit and Wayne County, limited funding has been available to date to address the backlog.  From this need, Enough SAID was created.

The goal of Enough SAID is to advocate for additional public monies and raise private sector funding (the first known effort of its kind in the country!) from major corporations, local businesses, families and individuals alike.  The funds will be used to finish testing the remaining kits, investigate resulting cases and prosecute the rapists.

On Jan. 6, 2015, PCPR executed a press conference to unveil Enough SAID.  Resulting press coverage appeared far and wide…and specifically traveled far enough to reach the viewing eyes of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and her husband, Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey.  They sent a $25,000 donation to Enough SAID about a week after the launch.  As Peg Tallet, chief community engagement officer of MWF told Crain’s Detroit Business in a subsequent interview about the surprise contribution, “National publicity for the campaign attracted the couple’s attention.”

See, so you can indeed make a difference as a media relations professional…no magic wand or cape required.

If you’re interested in learning more, contributing or helping to fundraise for Enough SAID, please visit


4 Myths About Being an Independent PR Practitioner

By Deborah Trivitt, APR

I’m not a fan of the recent fad to make a list of the “best,” “worst,” “most,” “least” of anything. I’m pretty sure the people making the lists are arbitrarily picking from their favorites or least favorites to make the list.  I doubt any real research goes into the making of any of them.

Recently PRSA Tactics columnist Tim O’Brien, APR, invited me to participate in making the list 4 Myths About Being an Independent Practitioner

As I prepare to begin year 18 as an Independent Practitioner, I can assure you his list is “well-researched, and insightful.”


Danger You Never Saw Coming

By Lisa Faulkner-Dunne, Lisa Faulkner-Dunne & Associates Public Relations

Social media is a great way to engage your customers and clients, and to share product information and announcements with people who already like you. But, if you’re responsible for handling social media for a client, you know that heartsick feeling when you realize someone you can’t control, with the most tertiary connection to your client or the brand you represent, is about to ruin your weekend. Usually, that’s not even their intent. The offending party makes a bad choice, engages in a poorly thought out prank, participates in a racist or sexist rant that they arrogantly assumed was private. Suddenly, if that person has any connection to your client, you’re dragged you into a train wreck you never saw coming.

After the OU fraternity videos surfaced, the Catholic high school one boy attended was forced to make statements about the school’s code of conduct, and its reaction to the event. No one at the school was part of the video, and representatives were obviously appalled by their former student’s behavior, but they were on the hot seat, shown on national news as if they were a little bit responsible.

How do you avoid getting embroiled in hot topic issues, so repugnant they go viral? Luck is the only way. But, you can work smart to mitigate the damage, much like the high school did.

  1. React – They came forward with a statement and an interview, indicating how disappointed they were to see a former student speak this way.
  1. Validate – They talked about the school’s teachings and discussed diversity among the student body.
  1. Finish- They faded away after. They didn’t clamor for more spotlight. Their part was over, and they wisely didn’t try to make it about them.

Of all the scenarios discussed at this school, I doubt they had played through this one—but, they responded appropriately.   A crisis doesn’t usually come from the direction you’re looking.


Apple Watch- PR Lessons for the C-Suite

By: Melanie McCraney, McCraney Communications

Apple watch photo courtesy of Associated PressWhen Apple chief Tim Cook unveiled the Apple watch with a typically unfussy flourish March 9, he accomplished something most CEOs only dream of; he made news with a product announcement. Even better, the event kicked off a lively conversation that’s been happily buzzing ever since. Media mentions have been in the millions and the PR value attached to those stories is calculated at many times more. Apple enjoys the elite position of not having to pitch its news to the media; the media knocks on their door.

NBC’s Today Show had Carson Daley on the story, setting it up with a clever tease,  “Fun at Apple’s expense?” Daley’s story, showcasing the $10k gold “Edition”  was upbeat , featuring huge, crisp digital images of three models of the watch , with price tags dangling . He did lightly poke fun at the prices, but so what? Apple had center stage and their product looked terrific.

The headlines, at least most of them, were a public relations consultant’s dream: “Apple’s Watch Is Almost Here Here’s What Wall Street Is Expecting”- Wall Street Journal, “Apple Watch arrives in April as most advanced timepiece ever created”- C-Net, and it goes on and on. Reuters took a scolding across tech media with their headline “Exclusive: Apple Watch not on shopping list for 69 percent of Americans: Reuters poll”, with Apple defenders chiming in to point out the bright side of nearly 40 percent of those polled having an interest in a product they haven’t even seen yet. Reuters followed up a few days later with “Nearly 40 percent of iPhone owners interested in Apple Watch: poll “

Giving Ambassadors the tools they need

Apple users have long played a crucial role in accelerating the company’s growth. Years before Apple even considered advertising , Mac users were creating a fiercely loyal user group that eventually led many prominent web developers to make the switch from PC to Mac. The brand’s popularity was built largely on the user experience and word of mouth marketing, staples of  public relations. Mac users take their allegiance to the streets- check out the popularity of the Apple icon displayed on the rear windows of cars and trucks coast to coast.

Apple’s appreciation of the power wielded by brand ambassadors shines in the Apple watch launch on a deeper level.  Apple introduced Watch Kit in 2014, giving third parties the opportunity to build apps to engage with the wave. ESPN, Major League Baseball, Target, Honeywell, Nike, American Airlines, Starwood, BMW and others were quick to jump in with apps to boost the watch’s relevance across multiple channels. That kind of third party endorsement is a fundamental PR tool.

Integrated messaging key to Apple success

Apple has long been known for its meticulous attention to marketing detail, and there’s a valuable lesson in there for the C-suite in any business or industry. While many companies push their  public relations strategists to the fringe of the inner circle (if they let them in at all), Apple does the opposite, embracing the message as a foundational element of organizational strategy. Mark Gurman’s Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media, a profile examining Apple’s PR strategy , is a must-read for anyone wanting an inside look the company that makes the Apple watch tick.

Strategy wins

Apple’s communications strategy favors substance over hype. Hype may spark a burst of publicity, but the impact is as fleeting as the clichéd “15 minutes of fame” it may garner. A carefully considered public relations strategy, appropriately integrated into the business plan, will yield results that resonate with core audiences for the long run. You can’t just talk a good game; you have a play a good game by creating an exceptional product or service and connecting with your target audience. Apple has cracked the code on that.

Melanie McCraney- McCraney Communications

Author: Melanie Berry McCraney is founder and president of McCraney Communications, a Birmingham, Alabama public relations consultancy focused on media strategy, integrated communications, relationship marketing, issues management and digital strategy. She also serves as President of PRConsultants Group. A collaborative of senior level PR agency leaders in the top 50 US markets, PRCG partners with major firms and organizations across the U.S.


Reporter Appreciation

By Melinda Kruyer, Kruyer & Associates

The recent losses of David Carr, New York Times, and Bob Simon, CBS News, juxtaposed to the fall of Brian Williams, NBC News, got me thinking about the reporters in my world and how much I value them as collaborators and respect them as professionals. Here is an example.

I learned about water technology when I signed on to lead the branding, marketing and public relations efforts for the new WTIC, the water technology innovation cluster covering Ohio, Kentucky and SE Indiana. The first thing that we did was to change the name to Confluence.

What is it?

  • Confluence is a 501(c) 3 organization composed of federal water laboratories and agencies, universities, large and small businesses, water utilities and regional development agencies.
  • The groups work together to expedite commercialization of needed water technologies, create jobs and spur economic development.

So, new organization in water technology with no burning buildings or celebrities, how do you pitch this?

Key for us was our relationships with great reporters who are gifted storytellers and worked with us to dig deep, boil down the information, sell it to their editors and create compelling stories. And they cared.

Even without caution tape, the Cincinnati ABC and NPR affiliates set a precedent by forming a partnership for a full week of stories on Confluence. WCPO and WVXU, partnered to produce one original content story per day per station for a week with all stories collected on a landing page titled Liquid Assets. We also had front-page coverage in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Business Courier.

Despite squeezed budgets, staff turnover and crazy news cycles, these talented reporters took the time, did excellent work and made it happen. Proving once again that at the end of the day, it is all about trust, integrity and relationships.