On Saturday, Kings Dominion finally revealed their 2017 attraction that it had been building up on social media for several weeks – an expanded Planet Snoopy, along with a season-long photo service and in-park wi-fi.
And the reaction online was both swift and ugly:
About 98% of the posts responding to the park’s announcements were negative. Park “fans” are incensed because they felt Kings Dominion staff purposely lied, teasing them into thinking something larger (and in their opinion, better) was coming (specifically, a Rocky Mountain conversion of their Hurler wooden coaster).
Here’s their reasoning – exhibit A is a tweet similar to this (which has been subsequently deleted). It features Snoopy looking at the Hurler roller coaster:
The first question asks if green colored roller coaster track in an Ohio foundry is destined for Kings Dominion. He responds, “Green? No. It’s red.”
Apparently his sarcasm didn’t translate to everyone – as “fans” immediately assumed he was hinting at the familiar red track from Rocky Mountain Construction. Some fans got the joke:
But apparently, many did not – and therein lies the problem.
Exhibit C (they say) is the fact that the park announced the expansion as part of a big event, inviting pass holders and bloggers to come and hear the news first – two days after the rest of the chain announced their attractions. This led park “fans” to THINK the timing indicated it would be a major announcement.
The simple fact is this: coaster “fans” created their own narrative and reality, due in part to the echo chamber of social media and the constant searching for the latest rumors on ride additions. They had convinced themselves not only was a roller coaster coming to Kings Dominion – but that they the fans DESERVED one.
How can I say this with confidence? Because others did some research – yet were drowned out by all the fervor:
Now – should the park have used photos of Snoopy looking at a closed Hurler? In hindsight, probably not. Is it worth getting so worked up about, that you threaten the park, sharpen your pitchforks and hope the PR guy is fired? Hell no! (I’m looking at you, Instagrammers)
In the end, this tease campaign made perfect sense – Snoopy is looking around the park, “snoopin’ around” as they say for his Planet Snoopy expansion. But the scale of the announcement vs. the attraction, coupled with the “echo chamber” and “need to know” community that is the online coaster “fan” made this the perfect storm for full-blown virality – in the worst way possible.
Welcome to the tightrope that is social media. Hope you’ve got a net set up below.
And as for the coaster “fans” posting all the hate and vitriol against the park to social media or demanding the park add a coaster to satisfy you – good luck ever being invited to a media day or special event…
August 21, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Theme Parks | Tags: FAIL, great american thrills, Kings Dominion, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, RMC, rocky mountain construction, social media, tease campaign, viral post, virality | 1 Comment
With no fanfare or any buildup, California’s Great America announced a long-standing rumor that it will convert it’s Vortex roller coaster into a floorless model, dubbed The Patriot.
Now, I’m all for improving the ride experience for any coaster – and certainly Vortex fits the bill for that. But considering that a longer, faster, taller (and better) floorless coaster is an hour’s drive north from Santa Clara – why would they try to market the world’s shortest floorless coaster in the same media market? (An ultra-competitive media market at that).The press release sent out by the park also erroneously claimed that Vortex is the oldest stand-up coaster in the United States (“Apocalypse,” formerly “Iron Wolf” is the oldest at Six Flags America). It also said the ride’s name was inspired by the “All American Corners” section of the park – even though the ride shares no entrance or exit to the area (It’s officially located in Hometown Square).
Don’t get me wrong – this is still a good move by the park. But it’s no slam dunk. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has the upper edge on this ride type with Medusa, so Great America must come with a really good angle to get their message heard.
Looking at the park’s social media feeds, members of the general public aren’t really sold on the idea:For me, the park would have been better off converting the ride into a sit down coaster, such as Kumba, Wildfire or the Incredible Hulk. At least then it would have been unique to the area. But, it’s still a major improvement to a ride that desperately needed it.
Let’s hope the station is also improved, with actual shade and you know – a roof.But the one thing I can’t shake from all this is HOW it was announced. At least when Cedar Point converted Mantis into Rougarou – there was a fun teaser campaign (Squash the bug). You felt like you were a part of the park.
But the way The Patriot was announced this morning came off like a doctor giving you a bad prognosis: “This is coming. You’ve got two weeks. Buy a season pass.”
There’s no emotional connection to an announcement this big when it’s done via press release only. Honestly, I don’t feel compelled to buy a season pass at all. The two errors in the release certainly don’t help, either:Overall though, the general public will welcome this change if it’s marketed well – and my hope is that it will be successful. But it will also be increasingly difficult to get the right message across – an emotional one – if the park does not connect better with the fans in the future.
What do you think of The Patriot? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!
August 18, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Theme Parks | Tags: california's great america, Cedar Point, communications, floorless, great america, great american thrills, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, marketing, press release, roller coaster, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, social media, stand up, The Patriot, Vortex | 5 Comments
Social media use has exploded over the past decade. Its presence is so big, many companies are hiring people solely based on their experience with these new, direct marketing channels.
But while a “like” can be earned quickly, those bonds can also be lost just as fast if the user has a poor experience with it.
So, if you follow these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a superior social media experience for your guests, which will lead to more of those turnstiles rotating:
STEP ONE: KEEP IT UPDATED!
I can’t tell you the number of parks that leave their social media without updated content for weeks, even months on end. Common errors here can include outdated cover photos, profile photos and information. While one of the easiest to fix, this is also one of the most common mistakes many parks and FEC’s make on social media.
STEP TWO: STOP POSTING CRAP UPDATES!
Treating social media like a direct billboard or commercial to the fans of your park is instant poison for your social media. Consider a park with 400,000 fans, yet only receives 100 likes on average on their posts. Something’s wrong there – and it’s the content.
Mask the ad for your park or event in great content – make a cool video or post a beautiful photo that’s sure to be shared. Direct calls to action will turn off park visitors faster than an hour long wait in an un-shaded queue.
And don’t forget about video – it’s the best way to tell a story – and one of the most underutilized mediums on social media.
STEP THREE: INTERACT WITH YOUR FANS!
It should go without saying, but many parks neglect the “social” part of social media – that is, they post something to their account – and simply leave it there. That’s akin in the digital age of throwing crap on a wall and seeing if it sticks.
Social media allows guests to experience things they may have missed on their last trip, post about how much fun they had – or in some cases – complain about a negative experience they had while at your facility.
Not responding or interacting with guests on social media is no longer an acceptable practice. It never was acceptable, period. One can easily gain back a potential repeat customer simply by interacting with them, acknowledging their concerns or eventually resolving them.
Yes, it IS a lot of work and yes, it CAN be frustrating at times with a never-ending deluge of comments – but that’s the world we live in. Consider it “job security.”
Plus, when a park or facility responds to a guest, they guest feels important – because they ARE! Remember who pays for the bills, folks…
By answering questions on social media, you’re also contributing to a higher engagement rating on many of the mathematical algorithms which dictate who sees what. Translation: responding on social media means more people see your post FOR FREE.
So, if you follow these simple steps, your amusement park or family entertainment center should see a nice bump in social media metrics – which should lead to more butts through those gates.
Got any other good suggestions? Leave a comment below or post on our social media channels. Don’t worry, we’ll actually interact with you!
August 4, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks | Tags: amusement park, best practices, facebook, family entertainment center, FEC, great american thrills, IAAPA, instagram, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, snapchat, social media, social media strategy, theme park, twitter, YouTube | Comments Off on Social Media Strategies and Best Practices for Amusement Parks
There are four things every public relations person at an amusement /theme park should do in preparation for a big ride announcement:
1.) Think to yourself, “What would Jeffrey Siebert at Six Flags Fiesta Texas do?”
2.) Release computer animated point of view video (POV)
3.) Tease a unique, mystery element in the ride
4.) Have ride merchandise hidden and ready to be purchased, just moments after the official announcement is made.
Kings Island in Ohio hit all of those on Thursday evening, even with major online streaming issues, when they officially announced Mystic Timbers – their record-setting 5th wooden coaster.
Not only did the park release the official animated POV (which has already been stolen and monetized by multiple “coaster media outlets” – the park also teases at something else…
You see, the POV wasn’t complete – there’s a little section at the end that they purposely omitted – only to show yet another hashtag: #WhatsInTheShed.
The coaster community online LOST IT’S DAMN MIND – and loved every bit of it:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you keep the coaster enthusiasts satisfied, curious and talking up a ride that isn’t even built for another 10 months on this project. We’ll all find out what’s in that shed come the 2017 season.
But for now, this is truly one of the best times of the year for park fans!
Are YOU excited for the 2017 season? What’s your most anticipated coaster or park announcement?
July 29, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Social Media, Theme Parks | Tags: #WhatsInTheShed, american coaster enthusiasts, amusement park, gci, great american thrills, great coasters, hashtag, kings island, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, Mystic Timbers, roller coaster, social media, theme park, wooden coaster | Comments Off on Kings Island Unveils Mystic Timbers and Teases with #WhatsInTheShed
I’m going to say something here that’s bound to tick off some of my readers – but it warrants being told:
IF YOU RUN A ROLLER COASTER OR AMUSEMENT PARK INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT…
YOU ARE NOT ACTUAL MEDIA.
There, I said it.
The same goes with just having a social media presence, whether it’s just a Twitter account or Tumblr that’s focused on parks or rides. None of that qualifies you to be invited to nor demand to be invited to a park media event.
Why? Well I’ll tell ya…
Credentialed media (such as myself) are invited to events because we earn it. We write proper news stories, we create content that’s more than just a photo and a caption. We provide insight for people who may be fans of the industry or the general public who might do a Google search.
Demanding that you’re invited to media events based solely on the fact that run an Instagram account dedicated to rides is laughable.
You have to have impact – you have to actually DO something besides snap photos with your phone and upload them.
Media events at parks – by their very nature – are supposed to be fun. But, that does not mean they are there for you and your “hundreds” of followers to HAVE fun.
People like myself are there to work; to cover a story. When you shove your way to the front of the press line, or bolt in front of others to get on the ride – that’s counterproductive to our whole industry of covering parks. And it’s why more and more parks are second-guessing bringing in “online, coaster media” in the first place.
When the enthusiasm over a new ride or attraction blinds you – that’s not good. I’m not saying what you do is dumb or pointless – I just want you to realize there are more steps to be taken to get up the ladder.
This problem is so prevalent, that at one media event I attended this year, a member of the Instagram Mafia DEMANDED that they receive the park provided ride POV first from their PR Manager.
Think about that. It’s not about covering the park anymore, is it? It’s about…YOU…being first. That’s the wrong attitude to have.
Simply put, if you don’t create meaningful content or respect the parks you cover (and the people who cover them) then I hope you enjoy the latest attractions when they open to the general public – because that’s when you should be riding them, first.
Am I way off base? (It’s happened before). Let me know in the comments section below or on my social media links!
July 21, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Social Media, Social Media and your Amusement Park (SERIES), Theme Parks | Tags: great american thrills, instagram, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, media preview, opening day, roller coaster, social media | 6 Comments
Dorney Park’s flag stolen and the massive social media backlash over special needs employee not rehired
Dorney Park in Altoona, PA learned the hard way this week that when it rains, it pours. (or maybe when it snows, it blizzards). A member of the Cedar Fair chain, the park saw not one but two major media events – and neither one was positive.
Last Sunday, after the park had closed – four teenagers were able to enter the park, and somehow scaled the 200 foot tall “Dominator” free fall ride to steal one of the large flags at the top. “Dominator” is a triple S&S tower.
Not a great start to the week, admittedly. But then it got worse. Much worse.
Christopher Emery, a special-needs individual had worked at the park for 12 consecutive years, cleaning bathrooms. When he went in for his annual interview with managers, he apparently didn’t do well. So much so, they decided not to rehire him.
When his friend – who also works at Dorney Park found out – he jumped onto social media to vent his frustration. Outside of having a bad interview, there wasn’t apparently any other reason for not rehiring him.
Within a matter of minutes, both #ShameOnYouDorney and #ShameOnYouDorneyPark were trending locally in the Philadelphia area as well as in the online amusement community.
It took until the next day for Dorney to issue a statement to the press, as well as try to quell fervor online. It was textbook, “too little / too late.”
Social media is a double edged sword. You can rise and fall very quickly and you’re always under a microscope. Parks can’t afford to not have a social media person ready to go at any time and not monitor their feeds constantly. No engagement is walking tightrope without a net.
One of the best examples of handling a crisis of late came from overseas. Alton Towers not only immediately issued statements on an incident on the Smiler via their social media channels – they responded to their guests’ questions and complaints – ALL OF THEM. And it wasn’t a canned response either – it was custom for each one.
It just goes to show the power of social media in this new era – and that trying to avoid it is only inviting trouble. As for Dorney Park, let’s hope this week is a bit more calm on the media front, for their sake.
February 11, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Social Media, Social Media and your Amusement Park (SERIES), Theme Parks | Tags: #shameonyouDorney, #ShameonyouDorneypark, alton towers, amusement park, cedar fair, Chris Emery, Christopher Emery, crisis communication, dorney park, great american thrills, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, social media, the smiler, theme park | Comments Off on Dorney Park’s flag stolen and the massive social media backlash over special needs employee not rehired
Can we talk?
California’s Great America is about to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary this year. And from the feeling I’m getting via their social media and press releases, it sure is starting to feel like the park is about to blow a major opportunity to celebrate it properly.
Yes, the park is getting a revamped 4D theater – but that’s all so far for their 40th season. A milestone season. A season many people didn’t think the park would ever get to the first place (if you know it’s history).
Maybe I’m nuts, but as a fan, here’s five things the park can easily do to make the 40th beyond just “good” – they’ll make it GREAT:
5.) Bring back the history museum:
One of the coolest parts of ACE’s Coaster Con for me two years ago was the opportunity to be involved in designing and curating the history museum at the park. It was hoped it would help the park do a better job of bragging about it’s history – and gave the park the excuse to dust off a WORKING model of their Flight Deck coaster.
Sadly, the very next day – it was closed to the public. All that work for less than 12 hours of total operation. If you’re going to celebrate your history – you better be prepared to be PROUD of it and COMMIT to it.
4.) Have roving, themed performers in the park:
Again, a highlight of Coaster Con a few years ago (for local park fans at least) was the apparent return of themed dancers and singers to Orleans Place. Even the general public stopped in awe. This piece of Marriott-era showmanship evoked Disney-like tones and really should be made permanent, rather than just used for one event and discarded.
3.) Bring back the Demon’s theming:
A sore spot with me for YEARS (Ha! It’s funny ’cause it’s an older Arrow coaster, get it?) I’ve got on at length about this before, so I’ll make it as clear as I can – the Demon MUST have it’s special effects brought back for the 40th anniversary. Bonus points if you re-create the “Turn of the Century” sign.
Speaking of nostalgia…
2.) Retro merchandise in the gift shops:
Nothing is hotter right now than nostalgia – and theme parks tend to accumulate a ton of it in their lifetimes. Great America is no exception. If you’re looking for a perfect example of how to pull this off, take a gander at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, who’s most popular shirt this year – was for a ride that’s been gone for three seasons now (The Big Bad Wolf).
Admit it, you don’t just want a Sky Whirl, the Edge or Tidal Wave t-shirt now…
…you NEED one.
1.) Nix the fountains up front and bring back the swans:
Quick backstory: The fountains were added in 2001, to celebrate the park’s 25th anniversary. I think it’s time to revert the front pool to what it was originally intended as – a reflecting pool.
And what better way to class up the joint, than to bring back the elegant, trumpeter swans!
And yes, California’s Great America, I’m available for consulting – perhaps compensation via funnel cake is in order. Either way, you have my info…don’t keep me waiting.
What do you think? Are there any other things the park can do to help truly celebrate it’s 40th season? Leave me a comment below, or chat with me on your favorite social networks!
January 2, 2016 | Categories: Amusement Parks, Theme Parks | Tags: #greatamericanthrills, #lostparks, #RideWithACE, ACE, american coaster enthusiasts, california's great america, coaster con, disney, disneyland, gat, great america, great american thrills, kris rowberry, kristopher rowberry, Marriott's, MGA, social media, suggestions | Comments Off on Five Ways California’s Great America Can Make It’s 40th Anniversary Better