Breaking News: The Media and You

Do #Halloween #Haunters Need Social Media?

Does Your Halloween Haunted Attraction Need a Strong Social Media Presence?

Let’s look at the facts:

As Steve Cooper wrote in Forbes

Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their pocketbook—next to Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, according to Alliance Data Retail Services (ADRS), a marketing and customer loyalty solutions provider. 

It gets better. According to America Haunts, there are at least 1,200 haunted attractions charging arp_Jack-o-Lantern_2003-10-31.jpgdmission nationwide every year, with 300 amusement parks “dressing up” for Halloween and more than 3,000 charity attractions that open for one day on Halloween or one of two weekends in October.

The site also reports that the typical haunted attraction averages around 8,000 guests, depending on the market and size of the attraction. Some attractions do exponentially better. The haunted attraction industry generates between $300 and $500 million in ticket sales per year.

Imagine: this half a billion-dollar industry basically thrives in a six-week window once a year. If you own a haunted attraction, it better be good, it better be accessible…and people better know BOO about it. If you have a haunted attraction, you have to be damn good at marketing it, or you’re not going to make it (there are virtual graveyards of failed haunt attractions out there).

Forget for a moment that we’re talking about haunted houses. Let’s talk about any product or industry–for example, aluminum siding. Do you need aluminum siding every day? No. Every week? No. Every year? Probably not. Yet what do you see on local TV? Commercials for aluminum siding. Why? Do the aluminum siding salespersons presume everyone watching will “Call now”? No. What they assume is one of two things:

1. Some people out there in TV land do need siding in the near future, so why not reach out to them?

2. Many viewers will eventually need siding, so they want their company to be “top of mind” when that day comes.

It’s a basic precept of marketing–if people don’t know about  you, they’ll never buy anything from you. This means that even if what you sell is a rare purchase, you better make sure your name is out there.

Let’s apply this rule to haunted attractions.

One thing I see over and over (with a few notable exceptions) is that haunted attractions do a lackluster job of keeping in touch with patrons throughout the year. Now, no, I do not believe you should run a TV ad in February for your haunted house. It would be weird. (Though I do think a little pattern interrupt–say, an ad in July is a good idea–but that’s not the point.) No, you should not be running ads year-round. However, you should be doing something else to keep your name out there. You should be active in social media.

Wait, wait. Come back!

Here’s the good news: it’s free (of charge, generally). The bad news: it takes time, and if you do not consistently participate, it doesn’t work.

So, being active on social media costs you time and creativity, year round. The benefits? If you maintain a consistent, entertaining presence on your Twitter of Terror, Gothic Google +, Fearsome Facebook, Icky Instagram and even Lethal LinkedIn, you can foster a regular, top of mind relationship with haunted attraction fans. This way, when your hot and heavy marketing push starts in September, you’ll have an army of brand ambassadors ready to help you spread the word.

Can you imagine the increased bang for your TV buck if  hundreds of fans share your TV spot on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook? What if you have social media-inflamed excitement building over ticket or fastpass giveaways, or people posting pics with your scareactors from the wait line outside your attraction on Instagram?

And what if your haunt space is used for special events or other commerce the rest of the year? Social media is a great way to let your fans know what’s happening when the lights are on and the monsters are in storage.

Halloween is almost here, but it’s not too late!

If you need help creating a social media strategy (and/or operatives to run it) for your haunted house, hayride, home haunt or warehouse, We’d be thrilled to work with you. We do social media and public relations strategies for numerous businesses every day. It would be horrifically fun to create an affordable social media (and or PR) strategy to market your haunt. Call 816-945-2477  or email us today.



Be sure to follow our special @Hauntfeed Twitter handle…free of charge you can DM your haunt news to us and get a retweet. Let’s get spooky!

We ain’t scared!

Are Celebrity Endorsers A Zombie Scandal Waiting to Happen?

By Alex Greenwood

America is excellent at inventing things, and celebrities are a huge export these days. For good or evil, we’re up to our collective rear ends in the rich and famous.

I’m fairly dubious of America’s fascination with celebrity culture; only rarely do I think we elevate worthwhile people to high status for good reasons. However, even in my cynical eyes, some celebrities are legitimate. For example, I think Captain Sully Sullenberger is one, because he did something heroic and seems to be a very decent human being. That perception of Sully is good for anything he endorses.

Then again, we are plagued with innumerable celebrities possessing no discernible talent, history of success or reason to be famous other than effectively maximizing the circumstances of their family or birth (see Kardashian, Kim; Hilton, Paris; or Family–UK, Royal) or making a public spectacle of themselves (see TV, Reality).

The pattern seems to be: 1. celebrity created, 2. maxes out their 15 minutes of fame, 3. makes bank by being used to promote a brand, 4. they fade out and are discarded (or 5. continue being a celebrity and live to promote other brands).

But at what price using celebrities for brands? Are celebrities a risky proposition for your brand? All too often, the answer is a resounding yes.



Jared Fogle (Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.)

The easiest, most recent example is Jared Fogle, the everyman Subway spokesman who lost hundreds of pounds on the “Subway Diet,” then apparently also lost his mind and became a sexual predator.

Sure, Subway had no idea, and they did the right thing by immediately cutting ties when there was a whiff of trouble–but potentially long-lasting damage to the brand is done.

Bill Cosby stopped being the Jell-O Pudding pitchman years ago, but if Internet memes are any indication, his alleged assaults on women have created a sort of “zombie scandal” for the brand–he’s not their endorser, but his legacy with that brand lives on like the monsters in The Walking Dead–and is just as nasty.

Certainly, Jell-O is many years removed from Cosby’s stint as the face of pudding, but if you’re over age 35 or so, how can you not think of pudding pops when you hear his voice and see his name attached to a story of yet another women accusing him of sexual assault?

The list of similar situations is pretty long:

  • Years ago, current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump ticked off plenty of people for his remarks about President Obama, Rosie O’Donnell and others…I wonder if it gave Omaha Steaks pause about sponsoring The Celebrity Apprentice? His latest bout of verbal diarrhea cost him Macy’s distribution of his fashion line. Certainly his brash persona has paid off for Trump personally so far–but once (if?) his candidacy flames out, I wonder how many brands will ever hire him again?
  • Paula Deen’s racially-charged remarks and actions led to her being dropped by Smithfield Foods, and her line of products was unceremoniously dumped from Target and Wal-Mart shelves.
  • Though not strictly a celebrity spokesman, reality TV star Josh Duggar cost his family their show on TLC (when did “The Learning Channel” STOP being about learning, by the way?) with word of his molestation of minors…and this week we learn he was also caught up in the Ashley Madison hacker dump.
  • Numerous examples abound. Reach back a few decades, and you have Hertz Rent-A-Car and the now-notorious O.J. Simpson. How many brands wish they could go back in time and rethink their relationship with Tiger Woods, Madonna, Michael Vick, etc.?

Here’s the thing: celebrities are human beings. They have flaws, foibles and failings. A brand considering using a celebrity has to weigh the risks of welding a celeb’s name to their marketing activities.

If everything goes well, you have Dennis Haysbert with AllState or Michael Jordan for Nike or Peyton Manning for Papa Johns. If it goes wrong, well, see above.

But there is also the question of the effectiveness of celeb endorsers. According to Ace Metrix, the practice of paying millions to a celebrity to get brand awareness is questionable:

“This research proves unequivocally that, contrary to popular belief, the investment in a celebrity in TV advertising is very rarely worthwhile,” said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “It is the advertising message that creates the connection with the viewer in areas such as relevance, information, and attention, and this remains the most important driver of ad effectiveness.”

I think there is also the issue of whether people remember the celebrity, but not the brand they represent. Sure, we see Leonardo DiCaprio in a glossy magazine shot showing off a fancy watch. But which brand is it? Rolex, Citizen, Omega? I love watches and I honestly do not remember.

The chance for serious public relations damage, coupled with the very real possibility that even a good, positive celebrity spokesperson provides little return on investment anyway, warns brands to be circumspect about bringing a expensive celebrity into the marketing mix.

Me? I think I’d forgo the celeb (except maybe Sully if I could get him) and save the millions for a targeted campaign about the features and benefits of my product or service. Maybe save it all for a Super Bowl ad.

Those ads come and go fast…no chance of a Zombie Scandal.

Yeah…now there’s a good idea.

No need for “no, no, no”

By Stephanie Greenwood
The recent TV interview with a St. Louis reporter and city comptroller (as her spokesperson intervened) has been the source of much scrutiny among PR professionals. Though I am not privy to the details of this situation, there are clearly many missteps (which have been covered ad nauseum by others). But for me, it serves as a good reminder about the need to prepare for difficult media questions and/or unexpected situations.

PR professionals should know their media contacts well and understand when a “no comment” statement will not be accepted. If you are asked about a situation in which an in-depth response isn’t appropriate, it is likely that a short written statement acknowledging the issue, providing brief context and/or correcting an inaccuracy would meet the reporter’s need versus saying that no comment will be given about the topic.

Communication with a client (internal or external) is critical. PR professionals should share when a media inquiry is received and provide guidance about what response should be given. Then talk through and agree on the approach. If the client is not willing to respond, draft a short media statement (see above). If they can respond but are not available to do so for a few days, tell the reporter and book the interview for the first mutually agreeable time. Then keep your client updated … let them know how the reporter reacts and prepare your client for what might happen next.

Media training internal and/or external clients is also critical; and they need to understand the media policy (and if there isn’t a policy, create one). Help them be prepared to work with reporters when they are approached directly. The policy may be that they need to tell reporters to contact the PR team first to schedule the interview at a mutually agreeable time. It may be that a member of the PR teams needs to be present during the interview.

Or it may be that they can quickly answer a few questions on their own … but train them in advance so they are well prepared to handle any situation.

Product Placement Isn’t Extinct

By Noah Smith

Please tell me that if you’re reading this you’ve seen Jurassic World. If not, where have you been all this time, the cretaceous period?

An Adweek article questions the product placement strategy in the new movie as being too much.

I disagree. I believe it’s where we are going.

Most baseball fields are named after a giant corporate sponsor. So, in theory, why couldn’t a sponsor have their name attached to a dinosaur? I think the step that takes it too far would be having the dinosaur named after a company: meet the Kraft Rex or the Jack Danialsasaurous. See? Too far. But if a company wants to sponsor it and have their brand all over the cage, then why not, we already do that.

The article also references the age of consumers and their level of trust in traditional advertising and then why this was such a big deal.

Of course, this is news because the film broke a record for opening weekend AND there are multiple product placements amidst the onscreen carnage. It begs the question: what if this was a lower budget film with the same advertising? Would I even be writing this article?

I’ll leave you with this before moving on, let’s forget what we know about the movie’s background and say it needed funding. What’s the difference between this and Kickstarter? It’s the same thing; advertisers pay to get certain eyes on their product. This movie could have been lacking funding and turned to sponsors to finish it. The movie gets made and the sponsors get their advertising, we are seeing this more and more as new ideas come from Kickstarter everyday.

Strictly speaking from the perspective of a Millennial consumer, yes, I’m seeing sponsors and advertising in a very different light–and I don’t trust the first one I see on TV. First off, I don’t have a TV. Marketers and advertising agents have to get real and change their tactics to target growing chunks of the population.

A lot of people are ditching TV, so that route is going out the window. Why not push to buy some space in major blockbusters? We see it and if we like the movie, might give a product a try…AND unlike TV, everyone will see the ads over and over again because it’s in a movie and not something we can ignore on TV or DVR. We will buy the film and watch it for years to come and the product will get more eyes on it and new generations will see it.

What do you think? Is product placement on the rise in films? Next time you watch a movie, keep an eye out for any real world products. Companies spend millions of dollars making a film, if it’s in there, it’s there for a reason and on purpose.

Finally, I can’t leave you without reminding you of a great product placement example in a film, The Truman Show, I’ll toss a clip so you can re-watch the very…dicey scene.

And now AGPR thanks you for tuning in to this post.


Find me on Twitter at N_Smith7.

3 Reasons Social Media Boosts Your Public Relations Efforts

We’re thrilled to welcome social media expert Michelle Stinson Ross to the blog!

We asked her to give us her take on ways to meld the best aspects of PR and social media–she did not disappoint. Check it out, and be sure to tell us what you think in the comments section.–Alex

Michelle Stinson Ross head shot

Michelle Stinson Ross

This is your company’s big moment! You’re launching a new product or service. You’ll be opening a new location for your growing customer base. The company is going to receive important industry recognition. You need to let the public KNOW.

How do you do that?

Like most other businesses have been doing for decades, you turn to Public Relations (PR) to help you. According to the Entrepreneur Small Business Encyclopedia, PR is “using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products.” The news media carries a lot of credibility with the public, more so than advertising. The stories carried in the press also tend to have a longer life in the memory of the public than any advertising campaign. So, PR is incredibly important.

PR can also be difficult to achieve.

Even the best crafted press releases and pitches won’t get picked up by every media outlet. The reporter contacted may love the story angle but their producer or editor may have other stories that take priority. Honestly, it may just be that they don’t know of you or your company well enough, yet. At its heart PR is about building long term relationships with the press and the public.

To get the attention of the public when your company needs it most, you need credibility, expertise, and access. Your brand’s active social media presence goes a long way toward addressing those needs and can work hand in hand with your PR efforts.


As stated earlier, the news media garners far more credibility with the general public than traditional advertising. But there is another group of people that your customers and community trust even more. The personal opinions of their friends and family carry even more weight than anything they might see on TV or read in the newspaper.

With a business presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest your business has the opportunity to share and be shared by the people who matter most to your customers. That presence is also visible, especially on Twitter, to the reporters you need to reach with important news items. Social media can be the engine that drives relationships with the public and the press.


Often the key to getting picked up in the press is to be viewed as a reliable source of industry information. You need to be seen as the media’s go-to expert in your field. To do that you need to regularly demonstrate your expertise. But if you’re not already getting picked up in the press, how do you accomplish that?

Social media gives you the platform to showcase your particular knowledge. Even if you’re not yet comfortable speaking in public, you can write articles about what you do and how you do it on LinkedIn, Google+, and on your website’s blog. Those supporting articles can be attached as links to the pitches and press releases to demonstrate your personal history of expertise. Sharing them across social media is also a way to set your media pitch apart from all of the other emails that reporters receive on a daily basis.


PR is not a walk in the park. Sure, news outlets reach hundreds of thousands to millions of people every day. But how many of those millions are really the people you need to reach? You already know that reaching people like that is a numbers game. Of the tons of people who see a news story about you, only a small percentage will make the effort to seek you out. It’s incredibly important that you connect with the segment of real customers you reach.

Social media is the tool you use to capture and build on the attention you received from a particular news piece. The public liked what that reporter had to say about your business. They will want to learn more about you. They will want an opportunity to talk to you. Enabling that conversation to happen on social media helps new customers to walk through your door and keeps loyal customers coming back.

When getting your brand’s story in the news is critical, make sure that you’re supporting those PR efforts with every resource available to you. Amplify the credibility, expertise, and access you have to your community through social media.

Michelle Stinson Ross is a digital marketing industry recognized authority on the outreach power of social media. She has worked as a community manager and consultant for several brands to increase brand awareness, raise the visibility of special promotions, and train their teams to use the social space to connect with media influencers and the public.

Michelle co-hosts #SocialChat, a Twitter based live chat that covers a variety of topics geared toward social media marketing (Mondays at 9 p.m. ET). Her passion for social media marketing has made her a regular conference speaker at events like ClickZ Live, Socialize Toronto, and Search Marketing Expo. She has also been a featured guest on Webmaster Radio and several industry Hangouts on Air.




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