How To Get Value from Influencer Relationships


For some organizations, working with bloggers and other social influencers is new, maybe it’s even uncharted territory.  Other companies have ideas about how to approach these media creators and may even have tried a few things.  A third group of companies has sophisticated programs with high visibility.

If your company is new at this, or tried a few things that may or may not have worked, it’s a fair bet you are seeking ways to demonstrate the value of working with social influencers.  Here’s how to demonstrate value in the future.

Clear Expectations

Create clear expectations of what you want the results to be.  Are you asking the influencer to do social media on the go — spontaneous posting on social networks  — as they experience your product or service? Or are you looking for a thoughtful report or image stream after the fact?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I hope to get out of this relationship?
  • What volume do I expect?
  • Are there deadlines I hope to meet?

Fair Exchange

A fair exchange is “I’ll give you X and I expect Y.”  What “X” and “Y” are for your organization could be different. If the social influencer is creating content for your digital properties, fair exchange might include compensation and credit for the content. If the content is created on the influencers’ blog or social network, then fair exchange may be your ability to promote that content on your organizations’ channels.  Making sure that the “deal” works for everyone and that everyone’s intellectual property is protected, might include an actual contract. Or a clearly defined email. Or as the organization, you might use the photos or works under Creative Commons licensing. There are millions of variations of these ideas and organizations and content creators should always consult professionals related to contracts and other legal matters.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Have I been clear about what I expect?
  • How have I communicated my expectations?
  • Do I need a contract?
  • Should I consult a lawyer or contract administrator for assistance?

Nurture The Relationship

Getting to know influencers that may align with your brand takes time and research.  There are many ways to find those influencers organically and many tools that help identify influencers using tags and  algorithms. Even if you have the best tools, it’s still important to get to know each influencer, their expertise and how they approach brand relationships.  It’s no different than joining the local chamber and getting to know other chamber members at networking events.  The relationships need to be built over time.

Some things to consider:

  • How can I develop influencer relationships?
  • Are there groups to join?
  • What tools should I explore?


If you want your future influencer relationships to be professional and ethical, they must include elements of disclosure. The influencers, by law, must identify brand relationships with disclosure statements on blog posts, and identify paid relationships using hashtags like #ad and #client on networks such as Instagram and Twitter.  

  • Have I discussed disclosure with the influencer(s) I’m working with?
  • Are we meeting my organizations ethical and professional guidelines?
  • Are we in compliance with current laws regarding disclosure?

I’ve matched brands with influencers on a wide variety of promotions and campaigns, and it’s easy to get off track.  By creating clear expectations, nurturing the relationships and developing clear expectations including strong elements of disclosure, you can develop value for your organization with influencer campaigns.

PRConsultants Group Selects Step In Communication as Texas Partner

PRCG Adds Step In Communication to its Nationwide Client & Agency Network

Step In Communication and Fran Stephenson, APR, has been appointed the San Antonio partner of the PRConsultants Group (PRCG), a nationwide network of leading public relations professionals.

“Step In Communication has proven its expertise in strategic communication, social media management and crisis preparation,” said PRCG President John Deveney. “We are excited that Stephenson is joining our nationwide network, and bringing her firm’s unique capabilities to PRCG’s expanse of clients.”

“I am excited to join the PRCG network, and such an elite group of PR professionals,” said Stephenson, APR and principal of the firm. “The team at Step In Communication looks forward to providing our skills to the network, as well as our ability to now offer boots on the ground to our clients in every major market in America.”

Clients of PRConsultants Group members enjoy boutique agency service alongside premier access to senior public relations professionals in every top US DMA. PRCG members have executed successful projects for national and international brands such as 7-Eleven, Cold Stone Creamery, Labatt USA, Mardel Christian & Education, Make-A-Wish America, MADD, Home Run Inn Pizza, and Wal-Mart.

About PRCG: PRConsultants Group (PRCG) delivers results through an exclusive nationwide network of nearly 50 public relations consultants. PRCG provides brands with a unique ability to leverage local market knowledge and connections along with the expertise of senior level PR pros in every major market in the U.S.  PRCG is recognized nationally for “National Strength. Local Power™”, the ability to engage audiences at the local level and deliver high-impact results in markets nationwide. Focusing on strategic planning and creative execution of media relations, social media, promotions, and news events, PRCG also offer crisis management services and event site selection via local market experts. PRCG members have successfully executed projects for national and international brands. More information is available at

About Step In Communication: Step In Communication is an award-winning San Antonio-based agency, specializing in strategic communications plans and is noted for its influencer outreach programs, social media strategy, channel management and measurement for clients in hospitality, tourism and health care.

Magnolia Market is a Tourism Sensation in Waco


What is Texas’ hottest and hippest destination right now?  It’s a couple of upcycled grain silos a mile off Interstate 35 in Waco called Magnolia Market and it’s a home decorators dream. It’s the brainwave of Chip and Joanna Gaines, the HGTV celebs from Fixer Upper. 

I’ve personally enjoyed the show from my home in San Antonio, and followed the hoopla surrounding the opening of the Magnolia Market three hours north of my home.  But it wasn’t until I had an opportunity to stop by on a recent trip up the interstate that I got to see firsthand why all my Facebook friends were drooling about this place.



I expected to encounter a cute shop with the accessories that Gaines is known to showcase in her “reveal” segments. If you watch the show, you’re familiar with the appearance of vintage-looking signs, handmade soaps, rustic textiles and ginormous primitive wall clocks –some of her favorites.

The Fixer Upper couple has taken their design sensibility—and sensation – and applied it to a shopping complex.   The retail store, Magnolia Market, appears modest until you walk inside and realize that it’s barn-sized.  Adjacent to it is Silo Bakery, a small picturesque storefront with outside seating for cupcakes and coffee.  The up-cycled grain silos themselves have shade, signage and seating.  Directly outside the silos is a Texas-sized field complete with soccer balls for kicking and swings for swinging.  Behind the silos is a garden shop and seed store. Lining the back perimeter are a handful of food trucks.  Everything is painted in an elegant black and white palette and squeaky clean.  Staff are strategically placed throughout to answer questions and direct visitors.    


I consider myself a seasoned traveler,  but I’ve not seen shopping so elevated into the realm of a full day experience as it has at Magnolia Market.  It’s more akin to a theme park than a home decorating store. And that’s what everyone is talking about. How a couple from Waco went from modest construction/design team to the number one show on the HGTV Network.  In the last two weeks, they’ve been the cover story in Texas Monthly and featured on the Texas Standard, but they’ve been featured in numerous design magazines the past year.

Five years from now, we’ll all be looking back at the phenomenon of what’s going on in Waco Texas and trying to figure out how to replicate it.  If you’re wondering how to create and market a destination, just call it anything with the word “magnolia” in it and sit back and watch the tourists flock to it (35,000 visitors per week is a widely reported figure).   

But the bottom line, everyone in Texas is cheering them on. We want them to succeed.  

So let’s examine this phenomenon like we would any busy theme park.  It’s best to prepare for your visit to Magnolia Market.  Here is a checklist based on my recent trip and some ideas I’ve gathered from recent visitors.


5 Pro Tips to Plan Your Trip to Magnolia Market

Be Prepared to Stand in Line…or NOT!

Depending on time of day and day of the week, there will be lines. Lines for “looking” at the beautiful home accessories on display and lines for purchasing them. There will be lines for cupcakes and lines for restrooms and lines for the food trucks.  But Dawn Monroe, of the Frugal Mom, had a completely different experience.

“About the crowds – we went on an overcast Saturday, at 2 p.m. It had just rained, so apparently the crowd left and we got really lucky.”

Have a Parking Plan

Sure there’s parking on the street, but at peak times, every space is taken.  A local church next door offers parking for $10. There’s a trolley running on weekends to and from free parking lots that are farther away,  but the parking is free and so is the trolley.  Best idea:  drive right up to the block, assess the situation and decide if you want to pay $10 for convenience or use one of the more remote free lots.

Take Your Time

The Magnolia Market experience is not to be rushed.  

“There are adorable touches everywhere,” says my friend Gloria Nwelue, the former San Antonio community manager for Yelp. “Those cute little picnic tables with black and white striped awnings and that super cool giant double porch swing? Swoon. Everything was even cuter than I expected, if that’s possible.”

“The outside entertainment area is lovely and I enjoyed sitting out there to have lunch,” says Janice Langlinas of Austin, a former tourism professional.  


Lots of Helpers!

It’s quite obvious that Magnolia Enterprises is employing a LOT of people in Waco, which is great for the area. They were very well staffed on the day that I visited, sporting cute little aprons and holding maps of the layout to help visitors navigate.

“Extremely helpful staff spent about 20 minutes helping me purchase one of their large antique olive buckets they were using for display, said my friend Melissa Welch-Lamoreaux. “And, the decorating ideas I took away from the visit–priceless.”

Expect to Pay for Your Experience

The Magnolia Market experience is not without its price. Some of the visitors I queried had expected all the items to be artisan made. And some are, but the bulk of items for sale are not quirky, one-off finds, but are just as likely to be high end, imported goods.

“I had to wait in line just to view certain items in the market, not to mention the insane line to actually check out,” said Nwelue. “Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything because I’m not a fan of shouldering my way through the masses.”

Last Word on Planning Your Visit

Visit the website for hours and directions – the area is closed on Sunday!!

Check out some of Waco’s other attractions here:

Is Your Facebook Group a Mob or Community?

School, child, kid.

Spend any amount of time on Facebook these days, and you witness people traveling in gangs, rising up because serious harm has been done to someone or something. Virtual vigilantes. It could be inspired by the upcoming presidential election, or world events, but the general mood is shifting.

In the early days of Facebook, the network was largely positive, but the sheer size of Facebook and the mountain of content we see daily, is changing the way social media managers need to approach their pages.

This is especially true for groups, which often have a higher degree of controlled access. If you’re managing a Facebook group, it’s a challenge to keep the community moving along.

Good Communities Need Moderation

The best Facebook communities have a good moderator – one or two people (Facebook calls them Administrators) who guide the community along, keep the conversation going and, when necessary re-direct the conversation when it strays from the purpose of the group. Two great examples of groups which I participate in (which are by invitation only, so I can’t link to them here) are the Solo PR Pros Facebook Group and the San Antonio Bloggers Group on Facebook.

Both have amazing administrators which guide the discussion and set the tone for how the group navigates each day. But they also have structure, which is equally important.

Good Communities Need Structure

Although structure in Facebook groups can be very informal, it does create a backbone for the administrators. In the San Antonio Bloggers Group, the administrators have posted guidelines on what types of posts and conversation are allowed and guides to the members’ Twitter handles or Instagram channels. This prevents repetition in the thread and connects seasoned members with newer members.

“A moderator’s job is easy when the purpose behind a group is clear from the beginning and guidelines are clearly posted to help lead the way,” says Stacy Teet, moderator of the San Antonio Bloggers Facebook group. “One of the most difficult parts of managing any large group–online or offline– is keeping all the cars on the track following the same locomotive. Members are as diverse as they come, each with their own individual personalities, preferences and ideals, but if you build a community centered around a common interest, topic or goal and you keep the group focused on that one thing, positive momentum should take care of the rest.”

In the group for solo public relations professionals, the group files include templates, conference information and other information to help its members be better at what they do.

“One of the ways that we keep content fresh for our group is by listening. We actively listen to conversations to keep a pulse on what members need to support them in their day-to-day challenges,” says Karen Swim, president of Solo PR Pro, which offers the closed Facebook group for its paid members. “Knowledge of our audience also enables us to spot trends, information, resources and tools that would be of interest to the community and deliver content accordingly.”

But what happens when that Facebook turns into a mob?

I have participated in several groups where certain posts brought out the mob mentality and discussions got heated. When this happens, it’s tough for administrators to keep the peace, much less manage (what used to be called) “civil discourse.”

What can you do to manage the community back to a peaceful, yet talkative, state?

First, invoke the “guidelines” doc. Strong Facebook groups have a document that outlines what is and isn’t appropriate to post in the group. It also highlights what types of content are inappropriate and how that type of content will be handled.

“If a discussion begins that doesn’t relate to the group, a moderator can ask members to continue the discussion outside the group. If the group starts to veer off course in their day-to-day or general conversations, the moderator should restate the purpose of the group,” says Teet.  “Ask members to reread and acknowledge posted guidelines.”

Second, if you don’t have a guidelines document for your group, now might be a good time to think about it. Once it is created, point members to it from time to time so they know it’s there. They might even go read it!

As an administrator, it’s your job to keep the conversation moving, so if that means biting your tongue, redirecting the conversation, hiding or removing inappropriate posts or working with individual members behind the scenes, think through the outcome you desire and then figure out how to get there.

The needs of the community almost always outweigh the impact of any individual post or member. It might be prickly for a while, but the good news about Facebook Groups, the conversation moves on quickly and will soon be forgotten. Can you say ‘squirrel’?

What to Know BEFORE you Book through a Vacation Rental Company



Like many travelers, I’ve experimented with the new vacation rental sites like VRBO and Home Away. These sites allow you to rent a vacation home or apartment using filters like location, features and price. They are becoming formidable alternatives to hotel bookings.

I’ve stayed in a wide variety of with varying success. Here’s what you need to know before you book your next vacation.

The Bad Stuff

Hyperbole. Many landlords are vague and flowery in the language to describe their rental property. One example for my extended family was a holiday spot which said “sleeps 10” — 4 of those “beds” were air mattresses on the third floor (leaky ones at that!).

Location. Like many real estate listings, the description will always accentuate the positive and minimize the negative. We once stayed somewhere which was described as being in the “hip” neighborhood, which it was. But it was also next door to a very loud construction site.

Illegal rental. The instructions we were given at a gorgeous property during a girlfriends’ getaway were: ‘if you’re out walking and you encounter a neighbor, tell them you’re friends of John and Mary.’ This is less likely now than when these services first cropped up, but as a renter, you might want to make sure that the landlord has the right to do short-term rentals.

No dishwasher. Gross. How do I know the last tenant actually washed the dishes?

Really bad beds and lumpy couches. In several rentals, the furniture was old, in bad condition and might have been moved from a college dorm.

Junk. Or Missing Junk. We stayed in one place with no kitchen towels and only one washcloth, but a heap of junk in the closets and stale food in the cupboards. Who wants to navigate all that clutter?

Maintenance? What maintenance? One location had such a large crack in the bathroom window, you could make ice for drinks in the cold air that was streaming through it. No problems, we used the only available washcloth to plug up the hole.

Terms. Bad terms. Paying the entire trip in advance is a stretch for some people, not to mention the various cleaning/damage/replacement costs that vary from location to location. Equally frustrating is the method by which many rentals are calculated. Minimum stay requirements and event weekend surcharges often apply. Because of these terms, vacation rental sites lack the flexibility of a regular hotel.

The Good Stuff

Entertaining in Style! If you’ve ever planned a large gathering where everyone has individual hotel rooms, there’s nowhere to gather. Vacation rentals allow you to hang out in the kitchen, lounge in the living room, and connect with your fellow travelers.

Quirky perks! Beautiful freshly ground coffee in one location, complimentary wine in another and local produce and special treats in a third. All things you’d never expect in a standard hotel.

Local information! There’s nothing like getting a local’s perspective on area restaurants and attractions. “The binder” left by most rental managers is always worth a look.

Investing in the Experience. Some landlords invest in a quality bed and usually highlight it in the description. The same holds true for those with plenty of extra towels and quality wifi. Combined with an amazing travel destination, it can make all the difference in your trip.

Be a Smart Trip Planner

Unlike hotel chains with brand standards, each rental property is owned and operated individually and managed under the vacation rental company’s umbrella. There are potentials for misunderstandings between landlord and renter and all have had their share of scandals. If you’ve never done your vacation in this way, do your homework before your next vacation. Check out these online stories before you make your next booking.

VRBO and Home Away are two brands by the same company. And they were purchased by Expedia last year. Read some of the reviews here.

Some cities are legally challenging the short-term rental market. Paris is one example and San Francisco is another. Here’s what the travelers on Rick Steves travel forum have to share about France and Italy using vacation rental sites.  This story, in the Los Angeles area, addresses the real reason why cities are trying to regulate rental companies – hotel occupancy taxes.

This story on outlines all the information about various rental companies.

Scams have been reported about rental companies in Seattle.  And on Buzzfeed.

So before you book your next vacation rental experience, do your homework. Happy travels.

6 Crisis Communications Resources

crisis communications resourcesTO GO!

A quick glance at the news this month is a good reminder that a crisis can happen at any time. The weather is creating crisis situations for many organizations; others have been surprised recently by technical failures or social media mishaps.

If you haven’t looked at your crisis plan in a while, now might be a good time to check out these six resources and get your organization ready for its next crisis.

  • Every Organization Needs a Crisis Plan

If you are NOT in the middle of a crisis right now, this story distills the planning process into the essential Elements. Read: Essential Elements of a Crisis Communications Plan.

  • The First Hour Is Your Biggest Opportunity

It’s make-or- break, actually. What you do in the first hour of a crisis can determine how your reputation survives – or doesn’t. Read: What To Do the First Hour.

  • Say You’re Sorry

No really, you’ll need to say it. And there’s a LOT of ways to do that. Here’s 33 ways to apologize in a crisis.

  • You WILL Make a Mistake

But if you’ve read through this far, it may not be fatal. Here are common mistakes organizations make in a crisis.

  • How Will We Ever Get Through It?

You can – and you will. Here’s a great success story from a small organization, the National Corvette Museum, that shows you can survive and live to tell about it.

Get the E-Book. If you really want to prepare your organization, go here to download my FREE e-book on Managing Your Next Crisis. It’s written with travel organizations in mind, but it’s loaded with information on preparing for any organization.

Go here: next-crisis/

What Facebook Wants Small Business to Know about Advertising


Last week, I attended a “Boost Your Business” workshop sponsored by Facebook. It’s the second time I’ve attended a Facebook-sponsored seminar since they moved their SMB division to Austin.

For all the criticism about this social network and all the changes that cause upheaval for organizations trying to navigate Facebook’s changing landscape, you have to give them credit for trying. By Facebook’s own admission, small businesses in the US are their real opportunity to grow revenues.

Think about it for a minute. You are a brand new business. You have a limited budget. Where else could you start to reach your customers with an investment of $25? You certainly can’t touch the traditional advertising outlets of print, radio and television unless you’re prepared to spend $10,000 or more PER MONTH. Digital ad networks won’t even talk to you unless you’re prepared to spend significantly over time.

Small businesses can afford to advertise on Facebook and they can be successful doing it.

Here are some key points made by the Facebook team during the seminar.

  • Facebook has 1 billion users on mobile daily. DAILY. No matter how small your small business, chances are a key segment of your potential customer universe is on this platform.
  • 1 out of 5 minutes spend on mobile devices is either on Facebook or Instagram. Since Facebook has integrated the advertising choices to include advertising on Instagram, this is a great way to expand your advertising audience, especially if you have great visuals.
  • Once a day is key to engagement. The Facebook SMB team shared that small businesses who post a minimum of 3-5 posts a week will have the best success. In fact, they shared that if you are posting more than once per day, you are actually stealing from your own engagement because you’re not getting the full benefit of the 24 hours of life in a post. (What I WISH they had shared was the average page size for which this statistic is valid).

The typical small business owner wears many hats and choosing and placing advertising is just one more burden. While the process can seem daunting, here are four takeaways from the Facebook seminar that can turn a burden into an opportunity.

  • Boosted posts are the most elementary way to begin advertising. However, they lack the precision of more targeted ads and are often more costly per “click.” Smart small businesses revise and refine targets over time.
  • Choose one objective for your campaign – it could be page likes, website visits or purchases; then target your audience and the amount you will spend to reach them.
  • Test, test, test. If an ad is not performing as you had hoped. Start over. Try a different image, a different target, a different amount.
  • Change your ad frequently. The Facebook team recommends that ads should be changed every 3-4 weeks.

The good news for small business owners is that Facebook continues to develop resources to assist this sector. Here are a few:

  • In the Facebook Ads Manager window, the help tab pulls up the most commonly asked questions as you can see from the graphic here.

help screen for FB

The biggest piece of advice from the Facebook team: set it and forget it is NOT an option.

How has your advertising experience been on Facebook?

How the Corvette Museum Survived a Sinkhole


Small Organizations CAN Handle a Crisis

Alongside Interstate 65 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, you can see the iconic Skydome of the National Corvette Museum from the freeway. It is a place where devoted fans come to see and admire America’s iconic cars. It is also a small, but smart organization who handled a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. Here is their story.

On the morning of February 12, 2014, at 5:38 a.m., the ground beneath the museum gave way and swallowed eight of the museum’s irreplaceable pieces. It was a sinkhole, 60 feet long by 45 feet wide and 30 feet deep, something we normally associate with Florida’s shifting water table. You can see the security video of the first part of the collapse here:

In the early hours of the morning, Katie Frassinelli, the marketing and communications manager for the Museum got the phone call. Around that time, the story started to travel because the local media monitoring the police scanner heard the original report from the Museum. Within hours, they were in crisis response mode.

How did they handle the sudden onslaught of media at their doorstep within three hours?

The National Corvette Museum team was prepared for rapid notification to some of their key stakeholders because they had several email distribution lists. This allowed them to reach staff at work AND at home and to quickly notify their board of directors too.

“I think everyone was in shock when it happened because a sinkhole in a building is not something you ever imagine happening, so it took us a few beats to get our communication rolling,” Frassinelli says. “But once we got going, we got faster and faster about letting people know what was going on.”

“We wear a lot of hats –we learned to prioritize,” says Frassinelli. “We didn’t go home until we responded to everyone.” They also didn’t discriminate by size of media outlet. As she noted in her presentation to the PRSA Travel and Tourism Section conference last month, “you never know who could pick it up.”

On the day of the crisis, they held two press conferences, which went a long way toward getting their story into the news. They held a press conference the second day, too, but their team worked around the clock to make sure the museum opened that day, so their message became “business as usual” instead of “devastating crisis.”

At the time, the Corvette Museum had 80 staff, 20 of which were full time. There were 12 on the management team and 2 full time and one part time staff in marketing and communications including Frassinelli. One clever tactic they used is the part-timer answered and logged all the incoming calls while Frassinelli responded to the calls. This is a great way to divide the work in a crisis and stay organized, too. As well, most interviews were conducted by Frassinelli or the Executive Director. This made their messaging consistent and focused.

After the second day, the interest tapered off until they started the process of retrieving the cars out of the sinkhole. This gave them another surge in inquiries. When they began that process, they installed additional live streaming cameras so fans could watch. It was so popular, the broadcast maxed out their servers.

Here’s a news story from CBS from the day the first car came out of the sinkhole.

Every “first” after that created a wave of new interest, according to Frassinelli. When they let visitors in to see the sinkhole, they got a wave of media coverage. When they decided to keep the sinkhole, they got media coverage. BUT all of that media coverage was positive!

Key Takeaways from the Corvette Museum Team

  • The team immediately collected media emails and turned it into an update list. Now they have a massive list of media which they can continue to communicate with over time. They used it right away for those periodic updates, saving them a LOT of time.
  • They took lots of high quality photos and videos so they had assets to share for news media inquiries.
  • They also uploaded video footage from their phones to get it out quickly. They chose speed over quality so their message was being shared, but also made high quality available for those who didn’t have tight deadlines.
  • They changed the way they wrote their press releases, using an article style they had not previously adopted. This made it easier for news media to use and they were able to re-purpose the content for members, a key stakeholder group for the organization.
  • Saying thank you and expressing gratitude goes a long way.


Turning a Crisis Into an Opportunity

When they began the process of recovering their lost cars, they installed additional live streaming cameras so fans could watch online from every angle. It was so popular, the broadcast maxed out their servers. The construction company got special Operation Corvette + badges for their cranes and helmets which became a positive buzz factor as they began the clean-up. Their Facebook page grew as a result of the incident – from 50,000 fans to 200,000 fans. They had a 67% increase in visitors to the Museum. They even bottled the dirt and rocks from the sinkhole in little jars and have sold more than 2000 in the gift shop.


coprvette cave in exhibit


But here’s the icing on the cake: they have turned the entire event into an exhibit called Corvette Cave In, which opened on the two year anniversary of the event—Feb 12.

A key question to ask someone who has survived (and thrived!) in a crisis is ‘when did things return to normal?’ When Frassinelli was asked this question, here’s what she said: “I think things will be back to “normal” by the end of the year.”

The National Corvette Museum turned a threat into an opportunity which is still paying dividends for the organization and its visitors. It’s an amazing case study of how a small organization survived through a crisis and is a great example to travel organizations and their leadership teams.

Theme Parks Introduce Demand Pricing

theme-park-demand-ticket-pricing-comparison-The Walt Disney Company announced a move last month to adopt demand pricing at their U.S. theme parks, a first for attractions.

Demand pricing, also called surge pricing, is a methodology in which prices fluctuate based on perceived or actual demand for a product or service. It has been used by the airline and hotel industry for decades and is also used by ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

For Disney, this means that on low demand days, a visitor could save $5 on a single day ticket. But on peak days, ticket prices are $20 higher. A single day “value day” ticket to the California attraction starts at $95.

When the LA Times reported the price change, they shared that a one year operating calendar for the parks would include 30% value days, 44% regular days and 26% peak days.

Looking at Disney’s online ticketing calendar, which shows prices by day for single day tickets, the breakdown is fairly even. This month, prices are at peak due to Spring Break, but during subsequent months, all three prices are available based on day. You can buy a regularly priced ticket every day in June, but if you plan a visit in July, the weekends will reflect peak pricing, and weekdays will be “regular” prices.

Universal Studios Hollywood also uses demand pricing at their California theme park, but their online ticketing calendar shows a mix of prices, with the incentive to purchase a reduced price ticket in advance online versus “front gate” pricing.

Pricing Strategies Changing at Theme Parks

Anytime a travel organization changes pricing, they are subject to criticism. Last October, Disney raised the price of its annual passes, one of which is now in excess of $1000 per year. At the time, Fortune magazine speculated that the changes in pass features and benefits was an indicator of a move to dynamic pricing. They weren’t wrong, as Disney made that move in late February.

Managing attendance during peak periods is a challenge for attractions. As Bloomberg reported on the price move, Disney is attempting to match price to demand. The double digit growth that Disney has seen for the last two years also played a part in the decision and let’s face it, every theme park has physical limits to the number of guests they can handle each day, no matter how many new attractions are added.

Now that two of the big players in the theme park industry have taken the plunge to demand pricing, there’s no doubt that others will follow.

Pros and Cons of This Change

If you run a theme park or attraction, why wouldn’t you want to manage your peak season crowds more efficiently? Create a better guest experience by limiting the number of guests and give them actual space to enjoy their visit.

If you are a traveler and you are taking a trip in a high demand period, you already paid a premium for airfare and most likely, your hotel stay. If a higher price at the museum, theme park or zoo meant that you and your family could actually see the place without the oppressive crowds, wouldn’t you take it?

This is just the beginning. Watch for demand pricing to change the way we experience theme parks, zoos, museums and other attractions in the coming years.

Sorry or Not Sorry? Why Companies Should Apologize

Im sorry graphic for post

There’s nothing like getting a heartfelt apology. And nothing more disappointing than an apology that feels insincere. Setting aside the snark of the Internet – just search for #sorrynotsorry and you’ll see why – apologies are REALLY HARD. They are hard for us as individuals in the course of being human, but they are even harder for organizations.


It’s Complicated!

In their article “The Organizational Apology: A Step-by-Step Guide”  in last September’s Harvard Business Review, co-authors Maurice E. Schweitzer, Alison Wood Brooks and Adam D. Galinsky, write that humans are predisposed psychologically to avoid apologies. So the fact that we are human makes it even harder to apologize if we’re doing so on behalf of an organization. Ouch.

Even more telling is the authors’ suggestion that as soon as we wear our organizational hat, we are far more likely to look at situations from a legal point of view.

“Even a leader who isn’t actively consulting with an attorney may worry that an apology could create legal problems,” they say. “Companies need to stop thinking this way. Most apologies are low cost – and many create substantial value.”

If your organization hasn’t thought about how apologies might be given and under what circumstances, the rest of the article poses 4 questions to consider whether an apology is warranted and suggests the right and wrong ways to apologize, keeping in mind the audience, timing and details of preparing one.

It’s no surprise that business leaders aren’t sure how to apologize since crisis communicators and business advisors often disagree on the tactical side of delivering apologies.

But is our hesitation to apologize part of our culture? Another article in the Harvard Business Review from 2012 analyzed cultural differences between Americans’ approach to apologies and that of the Japanese.

“Our own work found that a core issue is differing perceptions of culpability: Americans see an apology as an admission of wrongdoing, whereas Japanese see it as an expression of eagerness to repair a damaged relationship, with no culpability necessarily implied. And this difference, we discovered, affects how much traction an apology gains.”

Are we so worried about who is to blame that we have trouble offering sincere apologies at all?

Time after time, crisis communicators and reputation management experts advocate swift, sincere apologies. Yet every week, we see another example of a corporate leader delivering an insincere or stilted wreck of an apology.

It turns out, though, that there is a body of research which shows that apologies can affect stock prices immediately. Sincere, sad, responsible? Stock price recovers. Smiling, insincere? Stock price may be affected – and not in a good way. You can read the story about smiling during a crisis in Cyber Alert.

It’s time to remember the importance of sincerity and communicating from the heart. The right apology is part of that sincerity.