The year isn’t over yet, but it’d be pretty safe to say that one of 2015’s biggest PR disasters happened to Alton Towers. When the theme park’s ‘Smiler’ rollercoaster crashed and seriously injured five people back in June, resulting in two of them having a leg amputated, the management team had had some serious crisis communications to do. The news has reared its head again recently as it was revealed that the crash took place due to ‘human error’ as opposed to technical faults. Looking back over the past few months, how well has the theme park’s parent company, Merlin Entertainments, handled the crisis?
Soon after the crash, the CEO of Merlin Entertainments, Nick Varney, ticked all the right boxes for successful crisis communications. He faced the media head on and used it as a platform to apologise profusely, while ensuring that he didn’t in any way belittle the situation. But the management team needs to be careful what it says as it moves forward. Recently, Varney paid a visit to one of the amputee’s homes. A good move it seems, but the girl was insulted when the CEO informed that the park has lost money since the accident. Stressing concerns about revenue to a victim of the crash isn’t the best idea, and as expected, criticism from the press followed.
As a B2B PR agency, we like to look at how brands deal with high profile disasters. The incident at Alton Towers has perhaps shown that even when your crisis management gets off to a good start, it can be difficult to keep it up. True, you may continue to feel the same amount of remorse, but remember that the tiniest slip up can take you back to square one. The press is waiting for you to tumble, but under careful and ongoing management you can stay on top of your game.
Alex Brown has just started his career at Skout PR and will be a regular contributor to the Skout blog.