What would you advise? PR nightmare

Rich The situation:  The General Manager of  the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino has booked the country singing duo Big & Rich and sold a few thousand tickets.  Without his knowledge, a radio station who had tickets to give away has upped the ante.

To accommodate the wish of an ill 5-year old girl, the radio station has made arrangements with Big & Rich to let the girl and her family see the show and hang with the entertainers backstage after the show.  They, of course, have promoted this heavily on their station.

The night of the show, the casino GM learns of the plans.  He says they can’t go through with the plan because they are not allowed to permit anyone under 21 into the casino. 

Because they didn’t want to break their promise to the little girl, Big & Rich canceled the concert and spent time with the little girl on their touring bus.

The casino is left with a couple thousand people waiting to get into the concert and has to tell them its canceled. And you can imagine what the radio station did.  Lots of bad buzz.

What would you have done?  Okay, time for you to step into the casino GM’s shoes.  Would you have handled the situation like he did?  If not, what would you have done differently?

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16 comments on “What would you advise? PR nightmare

  1. Me? I’d have bent the rules. Who’s gonna care in a hundred years? Not momma, not the train, not the prison, not the pick-up truck (oh, did I mention I’m a CW fan?)

    Do you want me to tell you how I really feel about what the GM did?

    Let this suffice: he was a jerk.

  2. Isn’t the general rules that minors can’t be on the casino “floor”?
    In any case, strict interpretation is bad in such a scenario. Let’s look at the options: Risk getting caught and pay a small fine
    OR
    lose the goodwill of thousands of people who not only paid to see the show but will also drink, eat, perhaps gamble $$$, may recommend the visit to others, and may return in the future.

  3. Jill Spiekerman says:

    I would have really investigated a way to bend the rules. Could you provide extra security with the family to ensure the minor only attended the concert? Or provide a private room for an in-person concert? Sad that this wasn’t investigated before hand, but even sadder the way it turned out. I think the singers were trying to do the right time. I applaud them for spending time with the girl, choosing her over singing to thousands of fans.

  4. Jane Greer says:

    Everybody broke rules. Big & Rich didn’t keep their “employer” (the casino GM) in the conversation; they could also have found a solution other than breaking their contract. The radio station also jumped the gun and didn’t keep the casino in the loop; if they then badmouthed the casino for the decision, that was rotten of them. But in the midst of all this mess, the casino GM could have kept everybody happy and harvested a tremendous amount of PR good will by finding a way (and it would have been very easy) to get the little girl into the show. Anyone who had complained about it would have looked foolish and ungenerous, and the casino could have harvested even MORE goodwill by standing behind their decision.

    This was such an easy call and easy fix that I wonder if the casino’s legal beagles forced the GM to do things this way.

  5. Jim Lane says:

    Jane Greer hits most of the nails on the head. Here is the critical piece of information that needs clear definition: “He says they can’t go through with the plan because they are not allowed to permit anyone under 21 into the casino.”

    If that is literally true, the casino is stuck. Their liquor licenses are still under the control of the state and losing one is a BIG deal, or even having it suspended for 30 days.

    Everyone was operating in the dark. No excuse for that.

    I would have explained the situation to all concerned and put up a private dinner for the girl, family and band at casino expense.

    The band more than likely violated the terms of their contract and may be liable for lost revenue (depends on the cancellation clauses).

    The radio station has no excuse for not knowing about state liquor licenses and laws. They do live in that same backyard don’t they?

    Sounds like a couple of on-air personalities were brain-dead talking mouths and not thinking people to have made promises they could not deliver. My word, all they had to do before going out on that limb was make a simple phone call – a task that was obviously beyond their capabilities.

  6. Jim Lane says:

    Jane Greer hits most of the nails on the head. Here is the critical piece of information that needs clear definition: “He says they can’t go through with the plan because they are not allowed to permit anyone under 21 into the casino.”

    If that is literally true, the casino is stuck. Their liquor licenses are still under the control of the state and losing one is a BIG deal, or even having it suspended for 30 days.

    Everyone was operating in the dark. No excuse for that.

    I would have explained the situation to all concerned and put up a private dinner for the girl, family and band at casino expense.

    The band more than likely violated the terms of their contract and may be liable for lost revenue (depends on the cancellation clauses).

    The radio station has no excuse for not knowing about state liquor licenses and laws. They do live in that same backyard don’t they? They, ultimately, are the cause of the entire problem.

    Sounds like a couple of on-air personalities were brain-dead talking mouths and not thinking people to have made promises they could not deliver. My word, all they had to do before going out on that limb was make a simple phone call – a task that was obviously beyond their capabilities.

  7. Sherry Borzo says:

    Let me answer! Let me answer!(hand raised high in the air for attention of Drew) The GM must be a total left brain who can only see the facts and not the message. The radio station didn’t even bother with facts (providing them to the GM). Everyone paid the price but mostly the customers and the child. They GM could have come up with a creative solution and communicated the solution to all the parties. They could have worked out an alternative. It would have required right-brain thinking is all.

  8. Jim Lane says:

    I wonder what part of this is escaping everyone’s radar: the GM of the Casino IS A VICTIM of the radio station. That is where the problem started.

    The Casino GM is in a box and yet everyone wants him to bail out the radio station that caused this mess.

  9. Jane Greer says:

    Jim Lane, I think I love you. But I’d still love to have seen the GM decide NOT to be a victim, and come up with a cool way to save the casino.

    Why in the world didn’t he just ask Drew? 🙂

  10. Dustin says:

    I agree with Jim Lane’s post about the private event. I don’t think this had to be one or the other, and there are solutions to accommodate both parties. Something along the lines of a private show for the family before the other concert at the station or some other venue, or simply after the event outside. The radio station is the bad guy in this scenario, not the casino, even if they didn’t let the family into the event, so let them figure out how to get her to the event. Anyone turning away an ill 5 year old is going to get some bad press, but a casino can’t afford to lose their license.

  11. Andrew Buscher says:

    Stuff like this happens. Both parties forgot to use their heads and they got stuck in a tight scenario. Maybe they could have played a few songs for the child before and after the concert. I think a private show would be more personal anyways. It was a terrible idea to cancel the show when many other options were available to keep everyone happy.

  12. Scott says:

    I would have bent the rules for sure!….but a good way out would have been to explain this the the Big & Rich and ask for a special visit to the ill 5yr old…who could turn that down?

  13. Eric Brown says:

    I wonder why no one has seen the obvious fact that the singers were allowed to refuse to perform. This conflict should never have gotten to the point of singers getting involved. The GM should have negotiated a plan to allow the kid to be honored at the concert, in some way, and told the singers how great they were for helping this kid out in the face of a bad choice by the well meaning radio jocks. Any GM worth their salt in entertainment should have seen this as a no-brainer. The performer’s managers certainly should have wanted to avoid bad PR. Even a really thick headed performer’s agent should have used this situation for a positive spin. Sounds like some really self centered people in the wrong business got together here.

  14. Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I think everyone mis-handled the situation.

    The radio station — should not be allowed to commit other entities to any sort of promotion.

    The band — should have looked for a way to do something extra, rather than disappointing paying fans and not honoring their contract.

    The GM — was shortsighted. Rules are good. But bending them or working around them is possible. I agree with Jim on the liquor license element. But why not put up a tent or let them do an accapella performance on the bus or at the kids house. Bring an accoustic guitar and be simple.

    The bottom line here — everyone was inner focused. What was in it for them or how was their butt on the line. Had they put their heads together for 10 minutes, they’d have had it solved.

    Drew

  15. Jim Lane says:

    Nice summary Drew. The casino would, in any other than the casino venue, lose it’s income for liquor sales during that time period for those customers. Period. The casino is the victim and has absolutely the least wiggle room. They should stand fast, sue the band for non-performance and maybe use some of those funds to do something special for the kid. They should think about filing a suit against the radio station to boot – lost business, lost good will – you name it.

  16. Jim,

    You’re right of course, they could sue and probably would win. But the bad PR on top of the bad PR they’ve already gotten out of this deal would sure make me think twice.

    I think this is one of those situations where, if you don’t handle it right the first time, you don’t really get a second time. Which is a strong argument for having your front line people/managers very well versed in your values and goals.

    I wonder if the casino manager got rewarded or punished for his choices that night?

    Drew

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