TwitterRod – Twitter and the Iditarod

For the 2010 Iditarod the Anchorage Daily News, a prominent Alaskan newspaper, and the Iditarod have come together in the Twittersphere.

The Anchorage Daily News has created a twitter account of the 2010 Iditarod that allows reporter Kyle Hopkins to give live updates. While the Iditarod has just begun to get underway in Willow, Alaska, the Twitter account already has 496 followers.  While the Anchorage Daily News has always been heavily involved in the coverage  of the Iditarod, this new use of Twitter proves to be a great way to provide instant updates that can be easily accessed by fans.

The Iditarod is often followed by many Alaskans. As a child in school, I remember each student in our class choosing a musher to follow during the race. Everyday our teacher would tape an Anchorage Daily Newspaper page detailing the day’s race events to the chalkboard in front of the class. Each student would check their racer’s status, hoping for a successful race place to brag about.

This use of Twitter to follow the Iditarod is a great  communication tactic for the Iditarod as well as Anchorage Daily News. The possibility for out of state fans to follow is a huge bonus, as many out of state new publications probably don’t follow the Iditarod with great detail.

For the Anchorage Daily News, associating themselves with the Iditarod via Twitter is a good business move, further promoting the Anchorage Daily News and its own Twitter page.

– Kyla Morris

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Iditarod Faces Criticism

Alaska has always been known for The Iditarod, attracting both local and out of state  visitors of the sport spectacle.  The Iditarod is a sled dog race that consists of mushing a team of 12-16 dogs across 1,150 miles of Alaskan terrain, usually taking place over 10-17 days. The race has a historic past in Alaska due to the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. As the disease spread, the Iditarod trail and sled dogs were used to deliver serum to the community.

In the 2009 Iditarod, it was reported that six dogs had died during or shortly after the race due to various causes, the highest number of dog deaths reported since the 1997 race. Two of the dogs died due to fluid accumulation in their lungs, two are believed to have died from hypothermia, while another dog died shortly after her team had been dropped from the race and flown out of the area by plane. With the death of so many dogs, the Iditarod has faced increased  criticism.

PETA is currently running a campaign against the treatment of Iditarod racing dogs. PETA argues the Iditarod is a form of animal cruelty and that dogs suffer a great amount of physical health issues due to the race. PETA also cites several cases where dogs have been mistreated during the off season by not being fed properly,not  receiving adequate shelter, or in some cases not receiving needed medical treatment. Furthermore, PETA offers opinions  of several sports journalists who disagree with the sport’s practices. PETA has also targeted companies that finically support the Iditarod in hopes of convincing them  terminate sponsorship.

If the Iditarod wants to be seen as a race with historical and traditional backgrounds in the Alaskan community, public relations action is needed. The deaths of the dogs must be addressed head on and special attention must given to the fact that the Iditarod has a cultural, traditional, and historical importance in Alaska and in no way are the deaths of dogs regarded as acceptable or “just part of the sport.” Special attention should also be given to the key message that veterinarians are placed at every checkpoint along the trail to examine race dogs on a regular basis to detect and prevent health problems. According  to the Anchorage Daily News, Chas St. George, director of public relations for the Iditarod, stated “our goal is no deaths,” he says. “There is nothing worse than to lose a dog, and we are all very sad about the losses.”

The 2010 Iditarod began March 5th this year in Anchorage, Alaska, no dog deaths have been reported.

– Kyla Morris

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Bad News Travels Fast

With the advent of internet, social media, instant messaging, and microblogging, news travels faster and to a wider audience than ever before. Such outlets allow news to travel world wide faster than gossip in a high school lunch room, even all the way to the great AK! For the public relations industry this means that bad news travels fast and damage control must be able to act swiftly at managing and dealing with negative buzz.

Sharlyn Lauby, president of Internal Talent Management, offers 5 tips for successful social media damage control on her recently blog post for Mashable.com.

Her introduction offers a way to simply minimize social media damage through two steps: foster a positive culture and train employees on the proper use of social media tools. Fostering a positive culture rests on the old idea that happy employees lead to happy customers. By keeping your employees happy you are controlling the need for damage control by helping your employees give the best possible service. Training your employees on the proper use to social media speaks for itself.  If your employees can properly use social media tools it can improve the image of your company.

Lauby’s five tips for social media damage control after the fact are:

1. Monitor social media sites 24/7

2. Respond quickly with a consistent message

3. Reply to the social media world

4. Educate employees on social media messaging

5. Develop a crisis strategy

I agree with Lauby’s tips and find them very useful. Monitoring social media sites is very important. You can’t know how to respond to a situation unless you know what’s going on in the social media world and what people are saying. Respond quickly with a consistent message is key. If you leave room for people to make up their own minds because of a lack of information they will. Communicating with your public is crucial for damage control and all your employees need to be on board with your message.

Replying to the social media world is also a great tip. You wouldn’t let someone bad mouth you and not stand up for yourself,social media damage control is the same way. You have a right to tell your side of the story and offer your thoughts. Educating employees on social media messaging is important as well. Social media is continually growing in use and popularity, becoming social media savvy is going to be just as important as being familiar with common software.

Developing a crisis plan is always a good idea. Plan for the best, but always prepare for the worst. Also it is always a good idea to keep your company out of trouble rather than dealing with trouble when it blows up in your face or more than likely, on your computer screen.

– Kyla Morris

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CIRI Tourism Goes Green

I would like to continue my earlier discussion of green tourism in Alaska. Another tourism operator that is gaining attention for their green practice is CIRI Alaska Tourism (CATC). Kenia Fjords Tours (KFT), a subsidiary of CATC, is a tourism cruise operator that provides wildlife and glacier sight seeing tours out of Seward, Alaska.

KFT’s green practices include oil recycling, decreasing electricity use, and a fleet modernization program. KFT has also found a clever way to market their greener practices through their participation in the Denali Green Tag’s Tour program. The program is a carbon offsetting program that allows cruise passengers to purchase a $2.00 green tag. Passengers’ contribution from purchasing the green tag offsets 150 miles of driving and 140 lbs of CO2 emissions. Their contribution also helps with the development and production of renewable energy resources for Alaska.

CATC and Kenia Fjords introducing green campaigns could be good for business as well as environmentally conscious, as Alaska Wildlife Adventures had already witnessed.With a growing concern for  the environment ,eco-friendly businesses are attracting more and more people who are choosing green companies over competitors. Consider going green as adding a extra bright gold star to your list of  already great business attributes. Promoting yourself as a green company can provide you with an advantage over competitors as well as a creative way to market yourself, while being environmentally responsible.

Go Green!

– Kyla Morris

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PR and Polar Bears

This February the Alaska Legislative Council announced they would use state funding for a public relations effort. The issue at hand is the Endangered Species Act and the listing of two animal inhabitants of Alaska, the polar bear and beluga whale ,as endangered species.

The state will now fund a 1.5 million dollar conference and public relations effort.  The public relations effort will be two fold, providing damage control as the state fights the Endangered Species Act and a conference to discuss the scientific findings behind listing polar bears and beluga whales as endangered. According to The Anchorage Daily News, the public relations effort is “aimed at creating a “grass-roots” call for limits on the Endangered Species Act.”

Alaskan laymakers have discussed the negative repercussions of fighting the Endagered Species Act, suggesting that the ordeal could cause a “black eye” for Alaska. While many state representatives don’t seem to quite agree on the issue, no one stopped the push for the public relations effort, however some remained concerned about the cost.

One issue of debate is that polar bears and beluga whales being listed as endangered could be negative for Alaska economy. As polar bears and beluga whale are given more protection, oil and gas development could be impacted. On the other side, Alaska may be seen as caring more about money than the protection of endangered species.

Currently the Legislative Council has received bids from public relations firms that are willing to participate in the conference to discuss the issue. Conclusions and findings from the conference will then be utilized in the public relations effort.

Eddie Grasser, a legislative staffer organizing the effort, stressed the importance of inviting members from both sides of the debate to the conference. “If you don’t do that you will have a black eye,” Grasser said.

What will come of this issue remains to be determined, however it is clear that the state may have some negative press to deal with. As with any issue people are passionate about, seeking information about the situation will be critical. Implementing public relations as a way to allow successful communication is key.

– Kyla Morris

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Ecotourism: Alaska Wildland Adventures

Recently there has been a serge in businesses and industries committing to more environmentally responsible or “green” practices. The Alaska tourism industry is no exception and one leading company  is becoming well-known for their ecotourism ideals.

Alaska Wildland Adventures has been providing vacations and tours to Alaska visitors since 1977. Alaska Wildland Adventures’ owner and CEO, Kirk Hoessle, discusses how the company is committed to valuing the environment and its employees in a Winning Work Places interview.

With a growing world wide concern for the global environment, launching a green campaign is not only environmentally conscious and morally sound, but also very good for business. For Alaska Wildland Adventures running a green campaign gave them an edge over competitors.

In 2005 Alaska Wildland Adventures was awarded the Conde Nast award for top ecotourism operator in the world. After winning the award Hoessle placed the award’s logo on the company website. As a result the company discovered that many clients reported the company’s green factor as a way of choosing their services over other competitors.

Apparently going green reaps many benefits. Hoessle further discusses in his interview that green practices have even saved money through recycling and becoming more energy efficient.

So let’s review, going green and promoting your business under a green campaign can help reduce ecological destruction, boost business, save money, and further promote other companies to become environmentally responsible. I think members of the Alaska tourism indstury need to  jump on this green bandwagon asap. Helping the environment while boosting business sounds like a win-win situation to me.

– Kyla Morris

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More Flights To Alaska!

On Februaruty 5th Continental, Delta and US Airways announced that each airline would be supplying more flights to Alaska during the 2010 summer season. The new flights will be non stop from Chicago, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and Philadelphia into the major cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Many people in the Alaskan tourism industry are hopeful these new flights will increase visitors to Alaska through increased travel availability, but also that the rise in ticket numbers will decrease ticket prices, spurring even more visitors to take advantage of the cheaper fees.

What does this mean for industry? The Alaskan tourism industry better step up its communication and PR for its upcoming season.Utilize those cheap tickets as a way to promote and advertise your business, Alaska tourism, and traveling to The Last Frontier. Furthermore, Alaskan cruises better beware.  The decease in flight prices may cause more people  to opt for flying to Alaska rather than boarding a cruise ship for their vacation. I would advise a communication and advertisement plan that highlights the benefits of cruising to Alaska versus flying.

Either way cheaper ticket prices could lead to more people flying to Alaska for the prime tourist season this summer. Which industries and businesses will fair the best will depend on their ability to communicate and market themselves to tourists. There is a lot to see in Alaska and the tourism industry should take advantage of knowing that more travelers will be arriving by flight this season.

Different communication and planning may be needed as less tourist experience Alaska via cruises. Cruises offer a water experiencing approach to seeing Alaska, while flying will allow most tourists to experience Alaska by land. Fliers may tend to be more independent travelers, planning their own vacation activities, compared to cruise travels who have a very specific travel plan scheduled for them by the cruises companies.

The rise in less tied down travelers could really boost other aspects of the tourism industry that cruises have overshadowed. However, there are concerns that the  Alaskan tourism industry may expect overall lower visitor numbers due to two cruise ships dropping their summer trips to Alaska. Hopefully Alaskan tourists take advantage of the cheaper flight tickets as a way to explore Alaska.

As an Alaska I promise there is still plenty to see and do if you decide to visit Alaska by other means than a cruise, but should you have time and money to do both, you will have seen it all!

-Kyla Morris

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