If there is one thing that any PR person must know from the get-go, it is this: in work, as in life (and especially in travel), something will always go wrong. No matter how meticulously you plan, sometimes situations arise that are beyond your control – what will make or break a situation is the way you handle it.
A couple of weeks ago I brought a handful of journalists down to Cancun to check out a couple client resorts. The morning I left on the trip, the weather report said a storm was heading for Mexico. I braced myself, but we had perfect weather. The next day, we headed out on a very small boat in search of whale sharks. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. We lucked out, finding a huge pod of massive 45-foot long whale sharks. Our group not only swam alongside dozens of these Jurassic creatures, but a National Geographic photographer just so happened to join our group at the last minute, and he captured our entire adventure. On the way home we spotted beautiful wild dolphins jumping through the ocean, and when we arrived back to the hotel we were told that a nest of baby turtles had hatched and we’d be able to release them into the Caribbean Sea the next evening. Which we did. It was magical.
The journalists got along like old friends! They were professional, polite, on time. No one got motion sick, anaphylaxis, Hepatitis A, sunburned, or too drunk at our tequila tasting. No one’s luggage got lost, no one got sucked up by a whale shark.
Nothing went wrong at all. The press trip gods were smiling! It was at this point I really braced myself.
Just a few days later I left for my next press trip, this time headed for Panama. It was our client’s “spa debut” press trip – the one I’d pitched and planned for months, promising journalists cutting-edge holistic spa rituals in a “prepare to have your minds blown” kind of way. The night before our trip my client calls to let me know that the inspector cancelled and the spa would not ready for its big debut.
Also, the hardhat tour of a big new design project we’d planned had to be rescheduled last minute because of unforeseen “dress code issues.” When we arrived at the jazz lounge we’d planned one night, it was closed. Our flights home were cancelled because there was a hurricane in Miami. No sooner did I wrap up a 3-hour rebooking-over-the-phone session with American Airlines did CNN announce there’s a Tsunami warning for Panama.
My boss once offered some sage advice, “as you go, so goes the group,” i.e. remain calm, get creative and think on your feet. What could have become a “Bad Days Happen, Even in Panama”- type scenario turned out to be one of the best press trips yet.
No spa? No problem. We created our own private spa on the terrace of the Presidential Suite, which was a hit with the journalists. We replaced pre-planned live jazz with panoramic city views from an incredible rooftop lounge, and we toasted our impromptu extra night “stuck” in Panama with a great bottle of Rioja at a local gem of a restaurant.
Luckily, the tsunami warning turned out to be just that. And as for the hardhat tour?