Tweeting Chapter 11 Style

Bankruptcy: it’s the ultimate in bad public relations.

No company wants word of its financial woes to reach customers’ ears, yet that’s the situation Six Flags Inc. found itself in last month when it filed for bankruptcy in a Wilmington, Del., court. The New York-based owner of 20 theme parks throughout the United States is saddled with billions of dollars in debt and plans to undergo a four-to-six-month reorganization plan to regain financial stability.

That’s all well and good, but it’s also a serious PR debacle.

Forget about the creditors and investors. How would the customers react in such a situation? No one wants to purchase season tickets to an amusement park when they believe it may shutter its doors in the next three months. And who wants to ride a roller coaster through that stomach-churning loop when the steel safety bar – the only thing that holds your body safely in place – was installed, tested and purchased by a company they think is doing everything it can to trim expenses?

At least, that’s how some see it.

The truth is, these fears are based on a lot of misconceptions about bankruptcy. But – misconceptions or not – they could cause some families to stay home and watch “American Idol” reruns instead of hitting the water park.

Thus the problem for the PR gurus at Six Flags was clear: how could the company educate the public about what bankruptcy really means, allaying their fears and encouraging them to continue flocking to its coasters?

The answer: social media.

Social media Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others can be valuable mediums for any communication, including damage control messages. Six Flags recognized this and took definitive – and quite possibly unparalleled – measures to utilize social media to show how services at its 20 parks would remain unaffected by the bankruptcy.

Here are some steps the company took:

• Purchasing terms and phrases on various search engines that contain the word “bankruptcy,” and directing users searching those terms to a FAQ page that puts a positive spin on Six Flags.

• Hiring a social media marketing expert whose sole job is to troll sites like Facebook and MySpace, looking for negative conversation about Six Flags and responding to the criticism.

• Using “Mr. Six” – the dancing elderly man who appears in Six Flags’ television commercials – as a voice on Twitter to remind users of all the things they love about Six Flags. Fans of Six Flags can follow Mr. Six @TheRealMrSix.

Social media is still in its infancy, but already companies like Six Flags are taking advantage of its ability to reach their customer base – teens and young adults. Now, more than ever, it’s important to have a proactive social media marketing strategy. Need help? Call corecubed today. We have a very active social media component when appropriate in our strategic marketing. We can advise or implement.