Planning for the Unexpected: Why Your DMO Should Have a Crisis Communications Plan

Destination marketing is about sharing an area’s fun side. Promoting exciting attractions, cultural offerings, and unique dining experiences are usually top of mind when it comes to planning marketing campaigns. No one wants to think about the what ifs, the worst-case scenario situations. But unfortunately they do happen, whether by an act of nature or at the hand of an individual. 

These instances can leave a DMO scrambling to pick up the pieces. It can be a tough role to navigate, how to best support a shaken community, while upholding a responsibility to member businesses and visitors. Without a response plan in place, DMOs can be left swimming against the current without any way to mitigate the challenges brought on by crises. This is why DMOs should consider a professional crisis communications plan. 

Our team combines years of prior experience in the news industry, public relations agencies, and DMOs to craft messages and communication plans to guide a DMO through public emergencies or a negative event.

Hurricane response plan

It wasn’t long after signing a public relations contract with Madden, the Bradenton Area CVB’s staff called upon our crisis communications services. The destination, which represents an area on the West Coast of Florida, found itself in the projected path of Hurricane Ian as it barreled toward the United States. The Madden team jumped into action, developing an emergency message guide for the CVB team. The action plan included key messages for a variety of scenarios, ranging from total devastation of the destination to zero impact. Each scenario included key messages for each of the CVB’s key audiences, talking points for inbound media requests, and recommended courses of action for the CVB to take in the aftermath to responsibly pursue their brand mission and support partners. 

Throughout the storm and during the aftermath, Madden’s public relations team guided the Bradenton Area CVB. The CVB executed the emergency messaging plan, leveraging the near-miss scenario recommendations to effectively communicate with the public and provide support to its partners.

Responding to negative events

The need to enact crisis communications is not only critical when facing natural disaster. Unfortunately, unexpected events can unfold that land a destination in the spotlight, gaining negative attention.  Grand Canyon West, a famed attraction and destination on the Grand Canyon West Rim, experienced a series of public deaths at their Skywalk. One of the suicides included a public danger to other visitors. Grand Canyon West called on Madden Media’s services to assist in crisis management in response and planning moving forward.

With no established crisis communications plan, Madden Media immediately moved into action offering social media messaging, key talking points for tribal leaders, and a press release response to the incident. Madden offered media monitoring for sentiment and accuracy of the incident along with press interview coordination. After working with Madden, Grand Canyon West had their first crisis communication plan to rely on, which extended to multiple scenarios beyond public deaths on property.

Planning is key

While weather-related situations and tragic events are not something many want to think about, especially when your job is to attract visitors to your area, planning is key to handling them as smoothly as possible. Working with Madden Media’s public relations team can help your DMO feel confident that should the worst happen, you have a resource on your side helping you with appropriate messaging and navigating media, so that you can support your community and local tourism industry.

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