Monday, 28 June 2010

Pink Concert PR disaster at Alton Towers

It was all going so well, Pink wowed the capacity crowd at Alton Towers . . . . and then it was time to leave the concert and head home. That's when, from midnight, it all started going horribly wrong at Alton Towers. A double whammy, guest and local residents PR disaster ensues! Quick, arrange a meeting with the crisis management PR people.

I had heard last week that Alton Towers were genuinely expecting it to take 4 hours to exit the park - well they were right, it just about did take that long. I really have to wonder why, if Alton Towers knew how long it was going to take, they couldn't make better arrangements. Either find a way to get everyone out of the park quicker, or find a way to set more realistic expectations.

Guests exiting the park at 2am after a 2 - 3 hour stationary wait apparently vented their frustration by beeping their car horns in the local villages. Not sure how that fits into operating within a noise abatement order (brought about by the already frustrated residents of Farley). During a meeting at Alton Towers recently, the PR person said to me that they had given up worrying about what local residents think of Alton Towers. Amazed by this, I downloaded a Charter they've written on this subject and looked carefully to find any meaningful content, but alas, there was none so I guess she meant what she said.

The residents of a few roads in Alton and Oakamoor receive a quota of free theme park passes to compensate them for the lines of traffic passing their front windows, but then receive letters reminding them that special events like concerts are strictly off limits with these passes . . . oh and sorry about the extra traffic jams and noise it will all cause. I don't guess they mentioned the likely risk of angry car drivers beeping at 2am! This letter went down quite badly, which was a pity when it could have been turned into a local PR triumph with just a bit of smart thinking. But Alton Towers' PR thinking of late has been about issuing press releases to do with the need for plastic pants on Thirteen and the calorific content of the flies that riders unwittingly ingest. Not very strategic.

Meanwhile, customers invest in Park plus Pink tickets and get there early to enjoy a day at the park prior to the concert; a USP over Coventry where Pink played last weekend. Were the early birds with this ticket really directed to the furthest away car park K? Surely better arrangements were in place. No?! Just imagine, there you are with your kids, after 14 hours spent trailing round Alton Towers (with a lack of food and facilities to cope with the pre-booked 28,000 guests) and guess what? Only another 2 and a half hours from midnight sitting together in the car before you need bother to start the engine! It just wasn't what full paying customers were expecting. No wonder there are so many complaints posted on their Facebook page this morning! These techniques to engage your customers are great, aren't they . . . I've not seen any replies from Alton Towers as yet!

Fabio Capello is probably not the only one who's job contract is being examined this morning! Was there any trouble getting people out of Glastonbury do you think? Alton Towers, it really is time to consider PR a lot more strategically than you do. Plastic pants indeed.

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