CAMPAIGNS: Chalet girls turn on to Skiworld PR - Crisis Management

Skiworld is the largest independent ski tour operator in the UK. In 1998 it agreed to the BBC filming its staff as part of a ’fly-on-the-wall’ documentary about resort life in Val d’Isere. When filming was completed, Skiworld discovered that the docu-soap concentrated on Skiworld’s chalet staff and had been provocatively entitled War and Piste.

Skiworld is the largest independent ski tour operator in the UK. In

1998 it agreed to the BBC filming its staff as part of a

’fly-on-the-wall’ documentary about resort life in Val d’Isere. When

filming was completed, Skiworld discovered that the docu-soap

concentrated on Skiworld’s chalet staff and had been provocatively

entitled War and Piste.



Jane Howard PR (JHPR) was appointed to minimise any possible damage

resulting from the programme.



Objectives



To limit damage which may arise from the controversial aspects of War

and Piste. To maximise the PR opportunities given by the screening to

aid recruitment of future staff.



Tactics



As with all crisis management, the advice from Jane Howard PR was to

take control of the issue. With only two weeks between its appointment

and the airing of the first episode, the agency had to develop a

strategy quickly.



The team liaised with the BBC press office for War and Piste to find out

what media coverage had been set up. Unfortunately, the BBC had already

secured the involvement of many nationals and TV shows.



Also working against the agency was the fact that the subjects of the

docu-soap who had subsequently left Skiworld’s employ were told to

direct any press enquiries they received to the BBC press office, so the

agency’s media options were somewhat undermined.



Undeterred, it set about developing new ideas and angles to ensure that

Skiworld’s side of the story was told.



Stories along the lines of ’what it takes to be a great chalet girl’,

interviews with current staff and profiles of employees who had gone on

to bigger and better things received wide coverage, and radio interviews

flooded in.



This helped to counter the possible negative effect on recruitment -

particularly important as the documentary featured one member of staff

who was subsequently fired.



Skiworld staff were also given media training. This included preparation

for staff who were dealing with the media, and question and answer

training to help sales staff deal with awkward questions they may

receive from the public.



Results



There has been a great deal of coverage relating to Skiworld’s

involvement with War and Piste, including pieces in the Evening

Standard, the Mail on Sunday, the Guardian and the Sunday Times.



Features also appeared in key titles for Skiworld recruitment, such as

Marie Claire and B.



As a result, recruitment has been affected in a far from adverse way -

Skiworld has been inundated with CVs from prospective employees,

confounding fears that it would lead to a slump in the number of

applications.



Verdict



With the odds stacked against it, Skiworld has come out of the situation

not simply with its image intact, but in a positive light.



Sales and marketing manager Diane Palumbo has now been identified by the

media as a spokesperson for the ski travel industry, commenting on

issues such as the avalanche disasters in the French and Austrian

alps.



Client: Skiworld

PR Team: Jane Howard PR

Campaign: War and Piste crisis management

Timescale: Nov - Dec 1998

Budget: Undisclosed



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