How Holiday World Uses Social to Delight Roller Coaster Fans

How Holiday World Uses Social to Delight Roller Coaster Fans

Paula Werne, Director of Communications at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, joins the Social Pros Podcast to discuss responding to customers via social.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

The Value of Responding to Customers

Whether executed through paid ads, live video, or the ever-evolving world of content marketing, social is a tried and true way to reach your audience. While businesses have embraced social as a marketing channel, it’s also a way for customers to reach your business. A successful social strategy is about connecting with your audience, and this means responding to customers.

Whether they are looking for support, answers, troubleshooting, or even paying a compliment, when your customers reach out to you through social media, they are looking to be heard. As Paula Werne says, the most important thing is that you show them that you’re listening.

Whenever someone reaches out to you, it is imperative that you respond. Responding to customers is one of the most valuable things you can do with your business’ social, whether you are responding with a solution or simply letting them know that you see their comment and are looking into it. When customers know they are heard and feel cared for, loyalty has room to grow.

In This Episode

  • How Holiday World created a talk trigger with free sodas.
  • How to use Facebook to give real-time updates.
  • How to find user-generated content.
  • How to manage year-round social for a seasonal product.
  • Why any avenue for marketing can become a channel for customer service.
  • Why responding to customers is a critical aspect of social.

Quotes From This Episode

“First impressions are so important.” — Paula Werne

“We try to help our employees understand how important it is to treat people right because they’re building memories that they’re going to treasure for the rest of their lives.” — Paula Werne

“People communicate how they want to communicate.” — Paula Werne


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Episode Transcript

Jay Baer: Hey, friends. It's Jay Baer from Convince & Convert. Thanks so much for listening to Social Pros. Before we get into the show, an acknowledgement of this week's fantastic sponsor Salesforce at Marketing Cloud, who delivers to you a terrific free guide called The Complete Guide to Social Media for B2B Marketers. This thing is jam-packed full of goodness. All kinds of research insights on how to best segment your content in social for B2B, which channels to use, how to use advanced social listening in B2B. Really, really good stuff. Grab it at That's bitly/socialb, the number two, bguide, all lower case, all one word. Jay Baer: Also, this week, the show is brought to you by our friends at TechSmith. They make it so, so easy to create professional images, professional videos. They make tools like Snagit and Camtasia, both of which I use literally every day. And Camtasia, I'm using as we are saying this. Everybody can create custom screenshots, custom screencasts, custom videos. You don't have to be a designer. You don't have to have a ton of experience. Communicating with screenshots and video is seriously easy, I mean easy, with TechSmith and their products. And for you, listeners of Social Pros, you get 10% off, 10% off, when you buy the Camtasia and Snagit bundle. Go to, use the promo code socialpros. Promo code is socialpros. And enjoy your 10% off. You're going to love it. Jay Baer: Now, this week's Social Pros Podcast. Jay Baer: Welcome, everybody, to Social Pros, the podcast for real people doing real work in social media. I am Jay Baer from Convince & Convert. Adam Brown is off today, but that's okay because we have a jam-packed show. Today on Social Pros, we are speaking with Paula Werne, who's the director of communications for Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, which is not only one of the world's greatest and oldest theme parks but is also the only business to be featured in not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different books that I have written there is a case study about Holiday World, which is almost absurd. That's how much I love this business. I've wanted her on the show for like five years, and here she is. Paula Werne, welcome to Social Pros. Paula Werne: Oh, we're so humbled. I don't know what to say. But I'll think of something. Jay Baer: You'll think of something. You have your own podcast. You could do this whole thing by yourself. You could just freestyle it. Let's start there. Tell everybody about your show. I think it's fascinating that the Holiday World & Splashin' Safari theme park has its own podcast. It's amazing. Paula Werne: The way this started, I actually had a couple of years where I would say, "We need a podcast," and no one was going, "Yes, we do." And I thought, "Well, I'm going to have to do this thing alone," but I thought eventually I'm going to figure out how to talk people into doing this. And it really came about as we were planning our latest roller coaster, Thunderbird, which has been a huge hit. And when we would have meetings getting ready for interviews, getting ready for the announcement planning, I would notice that two of our fourth-generation owners who were both in their 20s, Lauren and Leah, were just so full of excitement and so full of stories and all sorts of fun. And along with our president. Our president, Matt Eckert. They'd get going, and it was actually really hard to get through a meeting without going to multiple sidebars. Paula Werne: And that's when I would burst out with, "We need to do a podcast because there are too many great stories. There's so few family-owned theme parks anymore that we need to talk about this. And it's more than just blogging anymore, let's podcast." And no one ever really grabbed onto it until I came up with the idea that we would have a competition at the end, a game, a really stupid game that they all now hate, but that's what got them to do it because the thought of being able to compete, they couldn't walk away from that. Jay Baer: Tell everybody the name of the show. Paula Werne: It is The Official Holiday World Podcast, and it's available everywhere that you can find podcasts, as well as And we're getting ready to, let's see, our 67th episode is coming up this week. Jay Baer: It's amazing. Speaking of Holiday World, we should set it up for our listeners here at Social Pros a little bit. I am obviously very familiar since I've written about it so often, and Holiday World is just 91 miles south of where I sit today. But it might be instructive to give folks a little bit of a frame up, Paula, just because it's a little bit of a different theme park in terms of its location, its history, and its amenities. Paula Werne: Well, we are in Santa Claus, Indiana. I think everyone who lives here or works here in Santa Claus, Indiana is used to getting hung up on on the phone when you call to make a business call, they're not familiar with the town, because all of our street names are also very Christmas-y. When our founder, Louis J. Koch, back in the 1940s was getting ready to retire, he was a Evansville, Indiana industrialist, he looked to the town of Santa Claus because he thought it was kind of sad that Santa wasn't here all the time. And that was back in the day when people would take these long summer vacations, and they'd be off for two or three weeks and take these road trips and get out the map. Remember the maps you used to have to fold and never really could fold back into the exact shape they came in. Jay Baer: I do remember that, yes. Paula Werne: Dad would throw it in the backseat, so the kids could work on it, and it usually ended up getting torn. But anyway, people would be ultimately disappointed. They'd come to the tiny town of Santa Claus, and there was really nothing to do. Paula Werne: We started out as Santa Claus Land as a retirement project for Louis J. Koch, and flashforward 72 years, we're now on our fourth generation of the Koch family owning and operating the park. And we've grown from a small Christmas-themed park ... And there were amusement parks well before us, but there was never really a theme park before us, so we have staked our claim on that title as being the world's first theme park as our theme was Santa Claus and Christmas. Paula Werne: Well, as the times went on, and Santa became a bit ubiquitous when the malls started popping up all over back in the '60s, we weren't as busy at Christmas as we were in the summer, so we really moved toward being more of a summertime park, and we changed our name to Holiday World in 1984 and added Fourth of July and Halloween as two different areas that are highly themed. And then in 1993, we started Splashin' Safari Water Park, which is one of the premiere water parks in the world. We've even had the attention of the Guinness World Record folks in that we have the world's longest water coaster, Mammoth. And we also have a second water coaster called Wildebeest that's just a few feet shorter. So we really have the world's two longest water coasters. And it's pretty exciting, and it's a lot of fun. Jay Baer: They both are a blast. They're both super, super fun. Paula Werne: They're amazing. Jay Baer: In my new book Talk Triggers, which we've mentioned here on Social Pros in the past, I tell the story of the unique differentiator, the operational choice that Paula and her team have made at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. While there are actually a number of differentiator for the park, the two that I pointed out in particular are their policy of giving out free unlimited sunscreen and free soft drinks to all guests, which creates a tremendous amount of conversation on social media. And of course, offline I talk about Holiday World & Splashin' Safari almost literally every day on a stage somewhere around the country and around the world. And invariably, somebody in the audience will be from Indiana or Kentucky and will come up to me afterward and says, "You're exactly right. I love it, and the thing I remember the most is free soft drinks." Jay Baer: Most amusement parks, it is $16,500 for one soda. One Bitcoin is usually what is charged for a drink. But you guys give it away for free, and that to me is remarkable and why I wrote a case study about it. But as the director of communications who oversees all the social media, you see that chatter happen all the time, right? In social and TripAdvisor reviews and such. Paula Werne: It is. Every day, it is an ... Nearly every review we get, people mention the free soft drinks. They absolutely love it. It is so unusual. It just has that feeling of, "You care about us. You care that we're not going to end up the day with a headache because we're so dehydrated." And we've been doing it since the year 2000. I remember well the day that we sat in a directors meeting and the late Will Koch, who was our president then, talked about the idea. And we'd actually already tested it out with company picnics. When we'd have big corporate picnics in, they would have free soft drinks, of course, available with their meal in the Picnic Grove. But we had several different small soft drink stands set up around the park. Paula Werne: And so we knew when a drink is perceived as being free how many drinks will be taken advantage of, if you want to put it that way, and how many will be consumed over the course of the day. And so we knew what we were getting into, so that in itself was a relief, that we weren't just going into it, "Well, hey, let's give this a shot." Because we really knew that there was no turning back. We did not want to offer something and then a year later say, "Nevermind. That was just last year. Now we're going to charge it seven bucks a pop," literally. Paula Werne: So it was really neat. I remember that vote. I remember Will saying, "Before we vote, remember, this is a commitment." And I remember just getting a little thrill out of that, thinking, yes, because I don't want to have to deal with people who'd be upset with us if we'd turn back and stop doing it. Jay Baer: Took it back. Sure. Yeah. Paula Werne: Exactly. So we've never done it. We've stuck with it. It has been a huge success. We have seen ... As part of the team that is in guest recovery and talking to people who do have something that they want to complain about, it was amazing from one year to the next where ... There are always going to be some people who have comments for us and feedback that, fair enough, yes, we need to fix that or we need to coach somebody or we need to do that, and we always will. And there'll always be some that are just, you scratch your head and think, "Why are you complaining about this." Paula Werne: But it was the middle, the majority of the middle that are really kind of petty, the things that were just fussing like, "Oh, I just want to say something nasty." Those disappeared. And we really feel like they disappeared because people felt cared for. People felt welcome. People felt we wanted them to be there. They didn't feel nickeled and dimed. They didn't feel like we had our hands in their pocket. I always just used to joke around about some parks turn you upside down and leave you there for a while till all the change falls out of your pocket. But they felt good about us. They felt like we were kind of in a partnership, and we'd invited them to our home and said, "Hey, you want something to drink" and didn't charge them. Paula Werne: Didn't charge for parking either. And people really love that, especially in this day and age where, boy, parking can be 10 bucks or 15 or 20, 25. Jay Baer: Oh, it's crazy. Yup. Paula Werne: First impressions are so important, and that's kind of a rotten one. So we let them in the gate for a fair ticket price, but we don't charge for parking, we don't charge for soft drinks. Paula Werne: The other piece of this that makes me so happy as someone handling PR is that we have these buildings that ... We partner with Pepsi, and they're the Pepsi Oasis Buildings or the Pepsi Oases, if you want to look at the plural. And they're very nice, free-standing buildings. You walk in. We have air curtains in the doorway, so the bugs aren't in there. Whoever thought of that ... It didn't take us a year to figure that out. They did that from the start, which I always feel very proud of somebody for thinking of that. Paula Werne: You go in, you grab a cup, you grab some ice, and you get whatever you want. There's eight, 10, 12 different variety of drinks from Gatorade to ice tea to ice water to Pepsi soft drinks to Dr. Pepper, lemonade, and on and on it goes. Of course, little kids love to do those ... What are they called? Suicide drinks? Jay Baer: Yeah. Yup. Paula Werne: Where they just mix a bunch of nasty flavors together to come up with something kind of gray. But kids love that. So if that enhances their day, great. And Dad doesn't have to feel like a cheapskate making everybody share one drink, and everybody has a good time. And these Pepsi Oases are available throughout both parks. They're also available inside the restaurants. There's no trick involved. You don't say, "It was almost perfect, but this one part of it ruined it for me." We really thought it through and took away any potential negative. The only thing we wouldn't allow is you can't bring in a five-gallon bucket and fill it up before you leave. We put our foot down- Jay Baer: And reselling drinks outside. Yeah. Yeah. Paula Werne: Exactly. Exactly. Jay Baer: So clearly an innovative park. Longest water coasters, the entire holiday-based theme, free drinks, free soft drinks, free sunscreen, free parking, first podcast of a theme park. Also the first theme park to be on Twitter and the first theme park to have a blog. All of that's under your direction. So from a social standpoint and kind of a content standpoint, how do you and your team decide what to talk about in each channel. You've got Twitter, you've got Instagram, you've got Facebook, you've got the blog, you've got the podcast, you've got a website, which is quite comprehensive. How do you decide what goes where? Paula Werne: Basically, the storytelling happens on the HoliBlog, we call it, and that started back in the year 2005 when we were getting ready to start building The Voyage, which is our largest wooden roller coaster, which has won all kinds of awards and is amazing. If you like wooden roller coasters get out here and ride it, because it's 1.2 miles long which is utterly insane. But anyway, we knew that we would be opening for the season in 2005, and that the sharp-eyed coaster enthusiast would see something was going on. And so we wanted to get a step ahead of it and help control the message a little bit, but still fan the flames a little bit ... or flame the fans, maybe, is the better way to put it. But we wanted to get them excited and let them know that something really big was coming. So that was how we started, but that's how we tell our stories, and we have a lot of subscribers. And then now certainly with social media going from Facebook to Twitter and Instagram ... and we still hang onto Pinterest because what the heck. But it looks like Google Plus is going away. Jay Baer: Yes, they've pulled the plug officially, and that's probably long overdue actually. And one of the things I noticed on your Instagram channel is a lot of the throwback photos. This is the park 20 years ago, 30 years ago. Sort of old-timey, black-and-white kind of romantic nostalgia. That kind of stuff does really, really well on your Instagram channel. How do you decide what photos to post? And do you have sort of a historian that finds those, or do you do that because you've been at the park for a long time? How do you kind of figure out which photos to put on there? Paula Werne: Actually, Josh Moore, who's on our communications team, he's in charge of Instagram and he just kinda digs around. We try to be ... we are very organic. We don't have this big editorial list of, "Oh, we're gonna do this and that." We know in general what we're gonna be talking about, but he likes to at least once a week ... Basically, he's a coaster enthusiast. He came to us from another park, so he absolutely can't get enough of anything. So I kinda trust what interests him, and it seems like it works really well. He'll come to me and goes, "Can I use this? Is there anything about this that..." It's like, "No, this ..." And I'll give him the backstory of whether it's a ride that's no longer here, or a view of the park before other rides were installed in that area. And it's done things there that, we could do the same thing on Facebook or the same thing on Twitter and we don't get the same reaction. So that's really been neat, and I've loved letting him just go loose with that and having fun with it. Jay Baer: That being the case, you have said that Facebook is still your most important social network, maybe because it's the highest concentration of your potential visitors, and moms who bring kids and that kind of audience. You still feel that way, that Facebook is sort of your core social channel? Paula Werne: It's definitely the largest, yes, and it's a great way to put out a message and get information out. It's a couple times where we've had really bad storms that have been scary. It's been a great place to post information because especially if families have family members here but maybe Mom's not here or Grandma's not here. They know they can go to Facebook and get the latest information about, "Everybody's safe, everybody's inside buildings, and the storm has passed." Because you watch the weather on TV and sometimes they get pretty dramatic and really scare people. So that has turned out to just be ... we just start one post and then we keep updating it. We don't do post after post after post but we keep it all together. Jay Baer: You update it in the comments. Paula Werne: Right, right. Or actually, I go into the original and I update it off there. Jay Baer: Oh, update the original. Yeah, edit it, sure. Paula Werne: Because that's all people are gonna look at. They're not gonna read through it, they're just gonna post something and be frantic about it. Jay Baer: Do you do much on the paid Facebook site? Are you guys buying a lot of social media ads these days? Paula Werne: We have done some boosting of posts, and of course I'll spend a little dollar a pop to be able to get "Click here to learn more" buttons. And then our marketing team then also does advertising on Facebook. Jay Baer: Great. One of the things that I find interesting is that you also have some Facebook groups, right? About sort of coaster enthusiasts and it's sort of that really hardcore ... did you set those up, or were those created by fans? Paula Werne: Well, originally it was created by a fan who eventually turned it over to us, and we have a special event for members of roller coaster groups called HoliWood Nights - Holi being like Holiday, and Wood because of our three wooden coasters - so we have this two-day, exhausting if I may say, event where we go till late into the night. After the park closes we re-open all the roller coasters and they get to ride to their little hearts' content, and it's a great social gathering and a lot of fun. And so many of these folks, they'll travel in from all over the world. It's just amazing, it's like, "Who are you people?" But they absolutely love it, and they love seeing ... it's like this huge family reunion every year. And so we have a page on our website dedicated to it as well as a HoliWood Nights group on Facebook. And it's neat to see relationships. Sometimes somebody'd say, "Hey, I'm flying into Louisville," or, "I'm flying into Indianapolis. Is anybody coming through there? Can I get a ride?" "Sure, we'll pick you up." Or just, "Hey, I need another roommate. I'm getting a cab." And so it's really nice to see friendships formed and discussions had and really a lot of these folks turn out to be long-time friends. After a while it's just like, "Gosh, I really like these people." And it's fun. And you see people getting married, and they have kids, and they're bringing their babies with them, and it's just really nice. Jay Baer: One of the things that's true about your kind of business is that people take a lot of photos, right? They're on vacation, this is their leisure time, they're probably not at the park every day or with great regularity. Also, because of the theme and the holiday nature of Holiday World there's lots of interesting visuals at the park. And so people take a lot of pictures while they're there, although I would say that might be limited a little bit by the water park side of your game, right? People don't carry their phones around as much perhaps at your park as they may at a park that doesn't have the water side of it, for obvious phone safety reasons. But my question is, how much user-generated content do you see? And do you and your team ever take some of those photos that are uploaded by guests and say, "Hey, can we use that on our Facebook or on Instagram?" And sort of play that game? Paula Werne: Yes, we have done all of that. Many of the photos, I'd say the majority of the photos are selfies, and you can see a little something in the background and say, "Okay, that's Holiday World." But it's still, it's those [crosstalk 00:20:45]. Jay Baer: I'm not sure what that says about us, but it's probably not good. Paula Werne: But it's a lot of happy faces, which is great. That's what their memory is, their memory is "I had fun with my kids", and that's the whole point of the thing. And then you have people who are fantastic photographers that take these glorious photos. And yes, over the years we have definitely actually purchased some of the photos to use in our advertising, and others we've shared or we've asked permission to be able to use them on our blog. In fact, there's one that we're gonna talk about tomorrow on the Holiday World podcast that will probably bring a tear to your eye. We weren't actually tagged, but I did a search for holiday World on Twitter the other day and saw a mom posted a picture of her then-13-year-old daughter, and presumably her brother maybe? At the park, and said, "This was our last family trip together." And it turns out two weeks later that little girl died. Jay Baer: Oh, that's too bad. Paula Werne: And this woman has spent ... I'm just getting the chills here. This mom has spent the past year on Twitter posting these lovely tributes to her daughter. Nora is the girl's name. So I had reached out to the mom and just shared our sympathy and said, "I'm sharing this with our staff to remind everybody, you just don't know. You don't know what's gonna happen in life." And from what I can tell the little girl wasn't sick, something happened, and it's certainly none of my business. But I asked the mom, I said, "Would you be okay with us talking about this?" And she said, "Oh, Nora would've loved it." She said, "That would be great." But looking through the tag that she has for ... I think it was #NonstopNora, was her tag. And all these lovely stories about what they did as a family and how this little girl grew up and how she'd be in high school now. But things that really bring you back down to Earth, and it's like, "This is what it's all about." And this family has this memory. They came on a rainy day. The little girl's all wet with a slicker on, and has this big grin on her face, and the mom's posted, "Take your families to theme parks, even if it's raining, because you don't know what's gonna happen." And it's just- Jay Baer: Yeah. That's great advice. Paula Werne: It was just, it was very touching, and we have about a million people visit the park every year and we try to help especially our younger employees understand how important it is to treat people right and treat them with kindness, have fun with them and laugh with them and high-five them, because they're building memories that they're gonna treasure for the rest of their lives. Jay Baer: Yeah. My dad passed away last week, so that story really resonates with me. Paula Werne: Oh, I'm sorry. Jay Baer: Yeah, thanks, Paula. It's interesting that you said that she didn't tag Holiday World, but you did a search for the geolocation. One of our occasional sponsors here on the show is Hyp3r; fantastic software company that allows you to geo-fence the property, and then it serves up to you all of the posts that have been created in the location, whether or not they're tagged. Have you used anything like that in the past to sort of find stuff that maybe isn't overtly, "This is at Holiday World," but you might wanna know it because it's a great photo or maybe even for a customer service perspective? Paula Werne: At this point we do searches, and so yeah, pretty much that's the basics. Jay Baer: So yes, the hard way [crosstalk 00:24:06]. Paula Werne: Yes, indeed. The cheap way. Jay Baer: Okay. I will have Hyp3r call you. It is truly spectacular. Paula Werne: But it is fascinating, and it's funny too because there are other companies called Holiday World around the world, so you'd never know it. Jay Baer: How dare they? Paula Werne: Well, and we get tagged for these just ... and some of them aren't in English. We actually have a running gag on our podcast where we call them cheese balls, and the reason we call them that is I brought up, "What do you do when you get a response to ... when we send out our newsletter, our email?" And sometimes people will respond to them. I think they're thinking they're forwarding it to somebody else, so they'll include a note. And one time somebody, thinking they were forwarding it I'm guessing, had returned the email to me with a note, "Hope to see you at the Christmas party. I'll bring the cheese ball." And it was like, what do you do with that? Do you send it back and say, "Did you mean this for me?" Because you don't wanna make fun of somebody, you don't wanna make them uncomfortable. But it's like, what do I do with this cheese ball? It's just sitting here [crosstalk 00:25:10]. Jay Baer: You know what? You say, "Cheddar only, please." By only very specific cheese ball rules. Paula Werne: Yes. But we have regular cheese balls, and we have fun with them on our podcast because you just don't know what to ... and in fact there's one company that is actually, I think they sell or rent RVs. They're down in Texas, but they're called Holiday World RVs. Jay Baer: Oh, sure. I know those guys actually. Paula Werne: Okay. They must have had a new social media person who was forgetting what their handle was on Twitter, because they kept using ours. And then I was trying to direct message them, and they must have had that blocked or something. It was like, "Okay, I'm just gonna tweet you and say, 'Excuse me, here's your Twitter handle. This is ours. Nice to hear from you. Best wishes, goodbye." And it was a while- Jay Baer: [crosstalk 00:25:56] if you ever wanna bring an RV to Indiana, we've got you covered. Paula Werne: Well, it's like when you get a bounce back when you send an email and it says, "Sorry, I'm on leave now but I'll be back July 11th, and it's October 11th." And it's like, do you email them back and tell them? Because I'd like that to be done for me, but I don't know that it's always appreciated. But just one of the many things in life that [crosstalk 00:26:14]. Jay Baer: Google'll have that handled soon, I'm sure. Paula Werne: Yeah, with [crosstalk 00:26:18]. Jay Baer: Now that they don't have Google Plus to worry about, I'm sure they'll have auto-expiring [crosstalk 00:26:21]. Paula Werne: That's right. We worked so hard to get our 417 followers on google. Like, what am I gonna- Jay Baer: Well, now you can move them over. You can port them over to LinkedIn or something. Paula Werne: I don't know. It was- Jay Baer: You mentioned Nora and her mom wearing the rain slicker, and one of the things that's interesting about your park is that it's not open all the time. We're in the Midwest here, and it's not like you're in San Diego or Orlando or Los Angeles, or other places that have 365-day-a-year theme parks. You definitely don't. Both parks are open all summer and then in the shoulder seasons Holiday World is open but not the water park, and sometimes you're only open on the weekends. I think now it's only weekends. Paula Werne: Right. Jay Baer: So that's gotta be a bit of a challenge in social, because you really do have a seasonality to the business. And so how do you change the kinda things that you do in social, and then in the true off season how do you kind keep momentum for the park when nobody can come to the park? Paula Werne: Well, it's been extra challenging this year. I think the weather's supposed to change today. We're not that far apart, so you probably have experienced summer in October along with us, Jay. But Saturday we had people show up in their swimsuits expecting the water park to be open in October, and were absolutely furious with us that we wouldn't open the water park. I think just not understanding that it's not flipping a switch, that there's a whole lot to having a water park open. Jay Baer: Yeah. Well, and air temperature and water temperature is not perfectly correlated at that scale. Paula Werne: This is true. But we do a lot. We start a couple of weeks before we shift from daily operation into weekends only, which unfortunately is rather early in August because around here, schools get back in session very, very early. Between our high school employees and our college employees, that really guts the staff. We would be open if we possibly could, but we just don't- Jay Baer: Nobody to work. Paula Werne: Right. Jay Baer: It's not like you have this massive labor pool in Santa Claus, Indiana to draw from. Paula Werne: Exactly. The elves are limited. For instance, over in Illinois, they start later in August, so it's that challenge of keeping that message going in the hopes that they will see it and realize. Every year, we'll have people say, "Oh thank goodness you posted this", even though we've been posting it on and off for two weeks. We have slider, the number one slider, on our homepage. Then we have a crawl. We have all different things on our website. We include it in our e-newsletter. We include it on all of our social for really a couple of weeks. We start it with just being, "We're open daily until this date", will be just kind of a tag onto whatever the main message is. Then we just start shifting it until that is the main mention, the main message rather. Paula Werne: We have a fun kind of a meme that we've created with Holidog. I sure you remember the National Lampoon Vacation movie where Sparky finally makes it to Wally World. In fact, I have my little Wally World ornament that I could- Speaker 1: Howdy, folks! We're closed for two weeks to clean and repair America's favorite family fun park. Sorry! Paula Werne: Anyway. Jay Baer: That was fantastic! Paula Werne: I keep that to remind me that we don't want somebody punching the moose out front. We have the Holidog out front, so we've taken a photo of Holidog at our front gate that pretty much replicates the famous meme from National Lampoon Vacation and say, "Sorry", and explain when we'll be open again. Every year, there's still a few people, unfortunately, who will stop by thinking we're going to be open. It's gone down. I'd say every year, it's fewer and fewer and fewer. Jay Baer: Then what do you do? When they show up, do you go like, "Hey, do you guys want to work here? While you're here, is there something we can have you do?" Paula Werne: Yeah. We go ahead and share with them other fun things to do in the area. It's too bad, especially when it's grandma and the grandkids who haven't really ventured forth into the world wide web and super highway of- Jay Baer: Yeah, yeah. They're not certain. How prevalent is your use of social for customer service? Are people Tweeting and Facebooking, asking questions about, "When are you open?", or, "Hey, the line is too long", or, "I didn't like this element of the park", or, "I love the park"? Is that a core part of what you're doing in social? How do you staff that? Paula Werne: In short, yes, very much so. People communicate how they want to communicate. We get questions on YouTube, which is bizarre to me, but somebody will say, "Hey, are you open tomorrow?" I mean, YouTube. Wherever they are- Jay Baer: Let me just stop you right there because that's a really good lesson for people. Social Pros, listeners, remember this. I talked about this in my book "Hug Your Haters", that any place you have a marketing channel could be a customer service channel. Guess what? That ain't your choice. That's the customer's choice. Anywhere you exist ... They could ask weird questions on Pinterest. They might not, but they might. You have to be monitoring all of your own channels because while we might think in a vacuum of social media professionals, like, "Why would anybody use YouTube as a customer service channel?", they do, as Paula just mentioned. Paula Werne: The other one that's constant is Google Questions. I don't know if you've talked much about that before, but it's- Jay Baer: No. Paula Werne: Anybody can post a question. I frankly do not know exactly how it works, but then all these random people will answer the question, usually incorrectly. It drives us absolutely crazy. I will get an email when this activity starts and get on there as quickly as possible. Thank heavens now you can go in and delete something that's incorrect. It used to be it was just fair game. Somebody could say, "They're closed for the season", in the middle of July. Somebody could really make some mischief, but now you can go in. If you're not already monitoring Google Questions, be sure and do it. Basically, when you- Jay Baer: It's sort of their version of Quora, right? They're trying to sort of take [inaudible 00:32:44]. Paula Werne: Basically, the answer to every question is, "It's right here on the website!" Why somebody's going to take the time to write out a question when they could just look on the website is beyond me, but that's what they do. I think they Google your name, and then what pops up is your little Google, I forget what it's called, but it's just on the right hand side of the page will be basic information about your park or your attraction, your business. Then it'll say questions. You can pop on and post a question, and then people get on there and try their best to guess at the answer. We go on as the owner and are able to whatever- Jay Baer: And say, "You're all wrong!" Paula Werne: I know. It's like, "Get off of here!" Jay Baer: "And here's why." Paula Werne: "Get off of my lawn, kids!" When we post though, it pops it to the top, which is much appreciated, Google. Jay Baer: Yes. That helps, that helps. Paula Werne: I remember it went from one day to the next, and it all of a sudden allowed you to start deleting incorrect answers. I couldn't wait to tell Josh. Josh and I, we are the social team here at Holiday World, so we split it up. During the day, it's kind of whoever has ... We take turns, and then in the evening, we take turns. I won't say it's 24/7, but it's definitely seven days a week. You got to keep an eye on it, especially when the park is open because somebody could really get upset about something. We're so grateful. Complain while you're there. If you have something that makes you unhappy, say something while you're here. We will send somebody to go talk to you. I'm sure other businesses, I hope, feel the same way. It's so much better to take care of them while they're here. You can turn their day around, make them feel better, or explain a rule that doesn't make sense to them, and get them back to having fun instead of them going home- Jay Baer: After the fact leaving a review. Paula Werne: ... and grumbling about it. Yeah. Then saying, "I'm going to blow you up on social media!" It's like, "Oh, please don't." Jay Baer: But the hard part I think, Paula, is that especially nowadays, so many people because they have grown up on a phone are pretty passive aggressive in that way, right? Paula Werne: Yes. Jay Baer: It is physically uncomfortable for them to even say, "Hey, may I speak to a manger?", or, "May I tell you about one of my concerns?" To do that out of their mouth hole is really hard for people, and increasingly so. I think we're going to see now, whether it's while they're at the park or afterwards, I think that's circumstantial, but the notion of calling to laeve a complaint or certainly asking to talk to somebody while you're there, or even in some ways what we're seeing in our data is a reduction in email complaints too because sending a whole email sure seems like a lot of work when you could just light somebody up on Twitter or what have you. The times they are a' changing. Paula Werne: Yeah. The one phrase, "Get it together!" It's just like, "Ugh! That makes me grit my teeth." So often, it's something ... It'll be a public tweet, "Get it together, Holiday World! Voyage has been closed for 15 minutes." It's like I'll make a call or Josh will make a call, and we'll be able to post and say, "Sorry. We thought you'd want all the vomit cleaned out of the train before you rode." It's like sometimes stuff just happens. It doesn't mean ... They always want- Jay Baer: That's where you got to post the photo of the actual vomit. It's like we're doing this for you people. This is- Paula Werne: Exactly. Jay Baer: We're all in this together. Paula Werne: When that does happen, then you clean it all out and then we actually kind of air dry the train. We'll send it out maybe without any riders once or twice. Jay Baer: Empty, yeah. People are like, "There's nobody on it! What's going on?" Paula Werne: Yeah. We try to communicate. We try to let people in line know, but sometimes it's just 10 or 15 minutes. It's just like, "Hurry up, get it done, and get moving again", but people assume the worst. I think that's another thing, that it seems to be getting worse with the general populace, is they absolutely assume the worst. They assume you're lying. It really, for me, makes a difference between the people who know us, whether they're season passholders or families that have been coming for generation after generation, and maybe somebody who just goes to a lot of different parks and just doesn't trust anybody. Paula Werne: We just find the most important thing is let them know you're listening. Let them know. Even if you don't know the answer, go ahead and respond, "Let me look into that for you. Thanks for letting me know. I'll be right back." Then get them an answer and turn it around. Our staff is really good about being very responsive to Josh and me when we are trying to figure out, "Hey, what's going on down at this ride or that ride?" Jay Baer: How do you do that? Do you actually have an internal walkie talkie system, or what's the mechanics of that? Paula Werne: We do, but sometimes it might be on a Sunday and I'm home, but I'm still watching social media, so we text a lot. We text or we call. It's just kind of whatever way works best, we track them down and figure out what's going on and get an answer. Jay Baer: What's actually happening. Yeah. Paula Werne: And sometimes we need to send a manager or supervisor there to talk to the person and explain something or help them out or replace something, and other times, it's just giving them an answer like, "Oh, it'll be back up in five minutes." They always like to say, "This ride's broke." It's like, "Okay, first of all, broken, and it's not." It's just like sometimes you get out and you go to drive your car and oops, this tire needs a little more air. It didn't air yesterday, but it needs air today, so sometimes they'll be a delay while we tend to something like that, but nothing's broken, and certainly not broke. Jay Baer: Yeah. Certainly not broke. Paula Werne: That's my biggest challenge is not correcting people's grammar. It really is. Jay Baer: I think you should have a ghost account, a burner account, that just does that, that nobody can track back to you. Paula Werne: Yeah. I would be very hated. Jay Baer: But you said an important thing that I want Social Pros listeners to make sure they hear, which is answer immediately, then go find the actual answer, and then come back and re-answer. The mistake that a lot of business make is they get the complaint, "I don't know, so let me go find out because I don't have anything to tell this person." It doesn't matter. You acknowledge their complaint immediately because then they know that somebody's actually on top of it. Then you figure out the answer. Then you come back a second time. That is twice as much work, but it is way more effective, and we've all kinds of data and studies. Paula Werne: It's like saying, "Please hold", on the phone. Jay Baer: Precisely. Paula Werne: If somebody calls and asks you a question, you wouldn't just throw the phone down and run out of the room. You'd say, "Let me find out. I'll get right back with you." Jay Baer: Yeah. "We're going to let this ring until we can answer it." Paula Werne: Right. Jay Baer: That is massively- Paula Werne: Heaven forbid you have a crisis, it's called a holding statement. It's when you don't really have a whole lot of information, but you want to acknowledge, "Yes, we know- Jay Baer: That we know about it first. Paula Werne: Yeah. Jay Baer: We are aware. Paula Werne: "We know about it. We'll get back with you. Here's where to come to find out what's going on." Even just yesterday, somebody had taken a picture, talking about taking pictures, took pictures of a grassy area that we have some ornamental grass near the Legend rollercoaster in our Halloween section, and she loves it and she wants it for her pool, which I very much appreciate she didn't just dig some up and take it with her because that's happened. Jay Baer: A souvenir. I'll bet. Paula Werne: Yes. That has happened. Dragging out something with the roots and the dirt dragging behind them. She just said, "I love this ornamental grass. I'd love to get some. Where did you get it?" I just thought, "Okay. This is going to take me a little bit of time to find out", but I went ahead and just posted and said, "Oh, I'm so glad you like it. I'll find out for you." Some people expect you to know everything every second of the time, but most people will be patient. They're just grateful that somebody's looking because a lot of times, people will post like a private message and they'll say, "Probably nobody even reads these things." It's like, "Yes, they do." I just have to hold back on being argumentative, like, "Yes, I'm right here." Jay Baer: I do read them, but I'm not a botanist. Paula Werne: Right. Paula Werne: We will find out. See if we can get you a discount there. Buy your ornamental grasses for your pool. Jay: Paula Werne, who's- Paula Werne: [inaudible 00:00:16] Jay: ... Director of Communications ... Paula Werne is the Director of Communications from Holiday World & Splashin' Safari is our guest on Social Pros this week. Jay: Paula, you have had the same job since 1991, which is remarkable. I suspect that you will change jobs soon because one of the traditions here at Social Pros is that people tend to leave their job within 12 months of being on this show. The percentage is like 75% of our guests. Paula Werne: Wow. Jay: I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's a kiss to death, a good luck talisman or a little bit of both. I would dust off your LinkedIn- Paula Werne: [crosstalk 00:00:53] Jay: ...because you never know. It's the Social Pros thing. Jay: Clearly, you've seen a tremendous amount of change. It's not just in the park, it's amenities and it's place in the theme park world, but, obviously, social media and all these different communication modalities that your guests, now, have the ability to communicate to you. A YouTube comment certainly wasn't possible when you started. Looking back do you feel like all of this explosion of social and voice of the customer is that a net positive or a net burden to you and Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Paula Werne: I love it. I absolutely have loved it. I will tell you I just turned 60 years old and people, I think, get surprised that the person they're communicating with, on whatever channel it is, they think it's an intern and sometimes get insulting and say, you know, "You're probably just an intern." Paula Werne: It's like, "I'm probably old enough to be your mother," which I've actually said to a couple of people. Jay: Well, and to the ... you're on the ... you're a senior manager of this business and have been for a really long time. I think that's also a good lesson for listeners is sometimes that is how organizations staff social. They put the youngest, greenest person on social and say, "Well, they know how to use Twitter. They grew up with it." That's not always the right recipe. To have somebody like you who really has tremendous knowledge, not only of the historical nature of the park and the operations of the park, but just about life and customer service and customer experience I think is a great idea. Paula Werne: One other thing that we do in this department is work with the news media. Looking back at 1991, just to make me feel really old, Jay if you can remember these days, we used to fax out our news release. You'd had everybody's fax number and sit and input them one at a time, late into the night. We used to have to take separate black and white photos and send the film off to have black and white photos developed because newspapers that didn't use color could only use a black and white photo. We used to have slides made for color slides. Just with everything digitized, now, it's just like, it's the push of a button, and you've got information to people immediately. I haven't had to FedEx stuff to anybody in a decade or more. From that part of my job it's absolutely fantastic. Paula Werne: Also, being able to talk to people. I mean, we talk to people one on one out in the park day after day, but this year round, no matter what the hour being able to talk to people and help them out, answer their questions. We have so many young mothers who wanna know if we have a place they can go to nurse their baby. We have this great mother's room that it's on our website, but if they don't do a search there they're not gonna know about it. Just these little questions that come up before they leave that, "Do you have this? Can I do this? How do I do that?" Paula Werne: If we can talk to them ahead of time and smooth anything out that might be a concern. Maybe something went wrong a different park that they visited, or they have, you know, so many people have anxiety, and they worry about this or maybe one of their children has some special needs. If there's something we can do to answer a question ahead of time and say, "If that happens here's what you do, here's who you talk to, or just reach back out to me, and we'll take care of you." Paula Werne: It's that taking care of people rather than just saying, "Gimme your money and shut up. Get in and get on the rides and stop complain." It's caring about people that- Jay: Well, and at some level I presume it helps being family owned in that respect. Paula Werne: Definitely, very much so. Yeah, we don't ... our- Jay: Because you can make those kind of choices. Paula Werne: Yeah. When people, you know, "I wanna talk to corporate." Paula Werne: It's like, "Well, hello." Jay: "I am. I am corporate." Paula Werne: Yeah. "Where's your corporate office?" Paula Werne: "Well, I'm here and then there's some offices- Jay: "You're at it", yeah. Paula Werne: It's that homegrown kind of Mayberry-esque part of us I'd love to see continue, you know, into the next generation. Jay: Before you came to Holiday World, as I understand it, you were the editor of Pizza Today Magazine. Paula Werne: I was. Jay: How could you possibly leave Pizza Today Magazine for Holiday World? Tell me a little bit more about Pizza Today Magazine because I feel like I need a subscription. Paula Werne: I've long been called the raven maven here at Holiday World because of our Raven Roller Coaster. Well, when I was at Pizza Today I was the big cheese, which was a lot of fun. Jay: That's solid. Paula Werne: I actually still lived ... my husband is a farmer and, so we ain't going nowhere. There was actually a publishing company here in Santa Claus that put out a magazine called Pizza Today. This was in the late 1980s. I had a background in journalism and had written an article for them, just kind of as a test piece, something about the brouhaha of coffee and pizza shops. They liked my puns and ended up being the editor there was retiring and ended up getting hired to be their editor. It was great fun. We did this ... it continues. It's been sold to another company and moved to right outside the Louisville area. We did this big expo every year, usually in Las Vegas, New Orleans or Orlando. It was amazing. Met all kinds of great people in the industry and famous people. It was just marvelous. Yeah, Pizza Today it's a trade publication- Jay: Pizza Today, love it. Paula Werne: ... for people who own pizza restaurants. Jay: Own pizza restaurants, fantastic. Paula Werne: Yeah, yeah and used to write a column for that and that was before there were blogs. That was before there was an internet. It just all kind of transferred over that enjoying to telling stories that are giving people information that's helpful to them. Jay: Yeah, same thing. I used to write a magazine column in Arizona, in a business publication before we had blogs. When I started a blog I was like, "Oh, I know how to do this. This is the same thing it's just published in a different place." Jay: Paula, I'm gonna ask you the two questions that we've asked every single guest here on this show, all 350 episodes or whatever number we're at now. I never can remember the episode number. First question, what one tip would you give somebody who's looking to become a social pro? Paula Werne: If you're looking to become a social pro what's really helped me is think of social as a party. Think of the conversations you will have if you go into a party in which you know some people and you don't know some people. You are not gonna go up and get in their, I hope you aren't, and get in their face and say, "Buy tickets, buy tickets, buy tickets, now." You're going to get in a conversation about where you work and what you do. Paula Werne: Eventually they'll probably come around to, "Oh, I really want to visit there." Paula Werne: I think if before you post, before you write a blog post, before you go on social media to send out some of your messaging if you think about that and keep it conversational, then you'll be successful. Jay: That is terrific advise, Paula. Last question for Paula Werne, who's the Director of Communications at the world famous Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana. Come see me in Bloomington. We'll go to Holiday World together ladies and gentlemen. Just let me know, we'll do it. Paula Werne: We should have a day, a Jay Baer day. Jay: Where everybody gets books. I love it. We'll laminate- Paula Werne: Yeah, book signing. Jay: We'll have a book signing. We'll laminate the cover. Paula Werne: Drinks are on me. Jay: Oh, I love it. Yes, they are and sunscreen. Paula Werne: And sunscreen. Jay: If you could do a video call with any living person Paula who would it be? Paula Werne: This was really, really hard. I cannot tell you how much thought I've given to this, but- Jay: It wasn't intended to be an assignment at that level, but I appreciate your [crosstalk 00:08:35]. Paula Werne: It really, really was. What keeps returning to my head is I would like to talk to the children of my high school physics teacher. This was at Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana. [Robby Robertson 00:08:53] was my physics teacher. To this day, all these decades later, I remember him and what he taught me, not so much in physics, but in the way his story telling. Physics was all about stories for him and was all ... he was this wild, raspy voiced guy, laughed. Teachers up and down the hallway would slam their doors shut 'cause he refused to shut his door. He was such a character. Paula Werne: When it was test day all the tests would be, you know, the written problem they'd be story problems. He would incorporate all of his students into the stories. You lived in fear of what he was going to ... I'm sure it wouldn't be allowed today because some of it was about dating and about, well, you know what physics are. Paula Werne: Anyway, it was so crazy, we paid attention, we learned, we loved it and we looked forward to test day to see who was going to get burned on the test. I would just ... I'm sure he's long gone. He was quite the smoker. He used to go back ... remember how they'd be a room between like the physics room and the chemistry class? Jay: Oh, yeah. Paula Werne: There'd be that little prep room that had all the chemicals in it. He'd go back there and smoke. Jay: Oh, that's probably a bad idea. Paula Werne: Also, probably wouldn't happen today. I'm sure he's long gone, but I would love for his kids to know how appreciated that man was and how much I still talk about him to this day, all these years later, Robby Robertson was one heck of a teacher. Jay: The children of Robby Robertson. Fantastic, Paula. That's a heck of a story- Paula Werne: Yeah, it's great. Jay: ... about storytelling. That's meta. It's a very meta answer. Thank you very much and thank you for all the great work at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Always an honor to talk about the business, all the places that I do that. I'm so glad that we got you on the show. Hope you have a fantastic off season as much as it's ever off for you. I'll see you down there in a little bit. Paula Werne: Wonderful. Thank Jay. Thanks to everybody. Jay: Thank you so much. Ladies and gentlemen that's this week's episode of the Social Pros Podcast. I am Jay Baer from Convince & Convert. We'll be back next week with another fantastic guest. Don't forget that the transcript of this show and every single episode going back years and years and year and years, all the links, and all the extra stuff is at Adam will be here next week with a new special guest. Until then, thanks so much for listening and have a fantastic day.
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