PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: David theme park wins Goliath battle

ORLANDO, FL: With six major theme parks already cheek by jowl, it's hard for smaller Orlando, FL, destinations to be heard. They're competing, after all, with the likes of Disney World and Universal Studios.

ORLANDO, FL: With six major theme parks already cheek by jowl, it's hard for smaller Orlando, FL, destinations to be heard. They're competing, after all, with the likes of Disney World and Universal Studios.

ORLANDO, FL: With six major theme parks already cheek by jowl, it's hard for smaller Orlando, FL, destinations to be heard. They're competing, after all, with the likes of Disney World and Universal Studios.

So Gilbert & Manjura Marketing, an Orlando PR, advertising and marketing agency, has earned a PR Play of the Week for garnering national and global press for the opening of the Holy Land Experience.

The four-person agency prepared for potential crisis, attracted 5,000 visitors in the first two days and managed the scores of media outlets that turned out to cover the grand opening - all on a yearly retainer of dollars 100,000.

Opened last week, the Holy Land Experience is a 15-acre, dollars 20 million biblical theme park conceived as a ministry tool for Zion's Hope, a non-denominational ministry in Orlando.

The Jewish Defense League (JDL) had threatened to protest the park, saying it is aiming to convert Jews to Christianity.

Ryan Julison, VP of PR for Gilbert & Manjura, now thinks the JDL's intervention was a media boon. 'The protest threat helped spur media attention because the JDL was working the phones on their behalf,' he said. 'Nothing works like a little controversy.'

Gilbert & Manjura gave the Orlando Sentinel an exclusive, pre-opening look at the park. The 1,600-word story with full-color art was picked up by the national media. 'When The Washington Post ran it on the front page of its religion section, that spurred international interest,' said Julison.

With more than 1,000 television news stories, including every major American network, coverage by five wire services and untold newspapers, magazines and other media, Julison said he is delighted with his current problem - making room for the media in a park packed to capacity by visitors.

'This story's got religion, politics, theme parks and controversy,' he said. 'Once we got the ball rolling, the story sold itself.'



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