Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

February 14, 2014

Museum’s sinkhole response a marvel

GLASGOW — Want to know how to deal with unexpectedly becoming a national news story? Call the National Corvette Museum, because they have a clue.

When a sensor activated inside the Skydome area of the Bowling Green museum before 6 a.m. Wednesday, I doubt anyone at the museum had a notion how big of a story they had beneath them. The staff embraced the moment and made a positive of the situation.

What happened was that a 40-foot wide by 25-foot deep hole had opened beneath the floor inside the SkyDome and eight irreplaceable ‘Vettes fell in. Within an hour of the hole opening, the information had entered the land of social media through Twitter. Within two hours of the hole eating cars, media representatives from Louisville to Nashville were loading trucks and cars to head to the museum. By 10 a.m., there was a press conference with the latest information about what happened when. It was fairly routine.

After the press conference, I asked Katie Frassinelli how long she had been in her role as marketing and communications director for the museum. She said five years. I asked if she had ever had to deal with a situation at the museum that had drawn so much attention. No, she said. It was a new experience for her.

Frassinelli, executive director Wendell Strode and others behind the scenes took ownership of the story quickly. They sent their first press release to media members at 8:47 a.m. With that release was a list of cars in the sinkhole and who had ownership of the cars – six belonged to the museum and two were on loan from GM. The release pointed out none of the cars were on loan from private individuals.

The best part of the release is the last sentence: “This year we celebrate our 20th Anniversary and look forward to re-opening the Skydome exhibit area very soon.”

At 10:02 a.m., the museum issued a second press release, this one with photos attached. By this time on their website, they had added links to get many photos from inside the Skydome of the sinkhole. Then, early in the afternoon, they had uploaded security camera video to their website and were allowing media outlets to share the footage.

The best part, though, was a big red button below the links to the photos and videos that simply stated “Donate Now. Click Here.”

It was a brilliant idea and a masterful way of handling what could have been a crippling public relations situation for the museum, which is a non-profit.

Someone or some group of people at the museum clearly understood what they needed to do to convert the sinkhole situation from a negative situation into a positive one for the facility that relies on people who have a passion for a type of car. Not only that, but they were also quickly aware of the flash fire potential of social media. The museum provided photos and video for mass distribution with the stipulation that it had to be noted those items came from the museum.

Too often in these situations we see the response from the affected agency to be one of providing little or no information. They almost never provide photos or videos and also give little or no access to what has happened and what is happening. Then sometimes they become testy when they are asked questions they are not prepared to answer.

During the Wednesday press conference, Frassinelli had answers, or stated she would get them and let reporters know when she had them, then delivered later.

For any public agency, non-profit or business that faces a tough situation that makes big headlines, they need to follow as closely as they can the game plan executed by the National Corvette Museum on Wednesday. Be forthright and get in front of the story or you will find yourself in a public opinion sinkhole.

James Brown is digital editor for the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by email at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @jbrowngdt.

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