DANCING FROM DISASTER by Dentsu Public Relations Tokyo for Joban Kosan

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DANCING FROM DISASTER

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Industry Hotels & Resorts
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market Japan
Agency Dentsu Public Relations Tokyo
Released February 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Travel, Tourism & Leisure
Advertiser: JOBAN KOSAN
Product/Service: SPA RESORT COMPLEX
Agency: DENTSU PUBLIC RELATIONS
Media Relations Manager: Nobuyuki Tanaka (Dentsu Public Realtions)
Account Executive: Saori Takahashi (Dentsu Public Realtions)
Media Relations Promoter: Mihoko Kanzaki (Dentsu Public Realtions)
Senior Account Manager: Akemi Sakurai (Dentsu Public Realtions)
Event Coordinator: Naoya Tanimoto (Dentsu Public Realtions)
Public Relations Manager: Mitsunori Igari (Dentsu Public Realtions)
Project Manager: Kazuhiko Asoh (Dentsu)
Media placement: Online Media Publicity - Yahoo Japan (Topics) - April 4, 2011
Media placement: Newspaper Publicity - Asahi Shimbun (Nationwide) - April 9, 2011
Media placement: Newspaper Publicity - The Telegraph - April 18, 2011
Media placement: TV Publicity - NHK (National Broadcasting) - April 22, 2011
Media placement: Newspaper Publicity - Nikkei Shimbun (Nationwide) - May 1, 2011
Media placement: Online Media Publicity - Nytimes.com (Opinion) - June 10, 2011
Media placement: TV Publicity - Fuji TV (Nationwide) - August 6, 2011
Media placement: Newspaper Publicity - Yomiuri Shimbun (Nationwide) - October 1, 2011
Media placement: TV Publicity - TV Asahi (Nationwide) - October 7, 2011
Media placement: News Agency - Bloomberg - February 7, 2012

Summary of the Campaign
One of the aftershocks of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan in March 2011 partially destroyed Spa Resort Hawaiians, a leisure complex in Fukushima located south of the crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant. Owner, Joban Kosan, needed a media-relations campaign to both reassure staff, shareholders and local suppliers that the resort was still in business, and also to ready visitors ahead of the re-opening once repairs were completed. A media relations campaign was conceived around reforming the resort’s famous hula dance troupe and its first nationwide tour in 45 years. The strategy was aimed at providing the Japanese media with a feel-good story of hope and determination after weeks of reporting only the disaster’s horror. The campaign’s magic was its delivery of movement, music and colour in attractive women-dancers to media, which sought a positive angle to the dour situation. Once the PR team announced the plan of a nationwide hula tour, the media themselves drove the bandwagon, maintaining adoring coverage through the dancers’ 5-month, 125-venue tour. The PR team regularly updated the media on the troupe’s progress, identify venues for upcoming shows, and engineered set-pieces ideal for reporting – such as the troupe’s highly symbolic performance in Kobe, a city reborn from the 1995 7.2 magnitude Great Hanshin earthquake to earn positive publicity. The campaign was so successful that it spawned a documentary film and, the unexpected provision of loans totalling 10bn yen (US$128m) from Japanese banks to help fund the restoration of the resort's facilities.

The Situation
Spa Resort Hawaiians was created in 1965 by Joban Kosan to revitalize Iwaki City after the area’s chief business – the company’s coal mine – closed. Promising Japanese a Hawaii-style holiday experience without leaving Japan, the resort had been immensely popular, with visitor numbers prior to the disaster topping 1.5 million annually. Not just the fortunes of owner Joban Kosan but those of Iwaki city and Fukushima were now at risk. The resort had to re-open successfully to kick-start the region’s economy and shrug off public fears of radiation contamination from the damaged power station 50kms to the north.

The Goal
The campaign’s primary objective was to cement in the public’s mind that Spa Resort Hawaiians was still a functioning business and that it would continue to offer a happy, memorable and safe family-experience as soon as possible. Immediately upon receiving the client’s brief, the PR agency conducted a detailed audit of print and online media to learn how the resort was viewed, its perceived community role, its economic importance, and the feelings consumers held for it. This confirmed that the resort’s most powerful symbol – since 1965 – was still the hula dance troupe.

The Strategy
With the audit confirming the place of the hula dancers in the nation’s consciousness, the PR team chose to build a campaign around a national tour of hula dance performances themed kizuna (or bond) and present the beautiful, hard-working dancers as symbols of Japan’s reconstruction, again in 2011 as they were in 1965 when they performed a nationwide tour for the revitalization of the Iwaki region. The local and central government involvement would elevate the tour to social movement status and attract media support. At regular intervals from early May through early October (when the resort was due to partially re-open) performances would be held at popular (and TV-friendly) venues. A key to the strategy was the PR team’s selection of venues and cities and the order of locations to build momentum based on the insights of the media.

Execution
An interview was given to the mass-circulation newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, which on April 4th brought news of the first nationwide hula-dance tour in 45 years - other media immediately seized the ‘feel good’ news. Twitter exploded with unsolicited messages of support and fuelled additional conventional electronic- and print-media interest. The PR team’s role then became to manage the media frenzy. Photo-op performances were arranged at a shelter for Fukushima evacuees, at a former coal-mining town in Kyushu, at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, on Japanese TV accompanied by megastars, SMAP, and finally back in Iwaki, coinciding with the resort’s partial re-opening. Footage of the performances was uploaded onto the facebook page and YouTube and viewed 200,000 times in total. Though the agency created an overall campaign plan, activities were planned on an ongoing basis – some only the day before implementation – because the post-disaster situation was so fluid.

Documented Results
The five-month campaign was a phenomenal success, with 432 instances of mainstream print-media coverage mentioning people being cheered up (prior to July 2011). Over 7,000 instances of media-coverage were garnered in both domestic and foreign media including nytimes.com and the Daily Telegraph. The troupe was appointed as the Goodwill Ambassadors to the Pacific Islands Forum by the Japanese Foreign Minister and received the Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Award. The campaign was so popular and uplifting for the entire country that a documentary film was produced, and screened at the 24th Tokyo International Film Festival and launched at theatres nationwide from October, 2011. Reservations were almost fully booked from February 2012 to summer 2012. In February 2012, visitor numbers were also even with 2011 - even with ongoing radiation fears. The highly visible campaign also attracted loans totalling US$128m from 3 megabanks aimed at the restoration of the resort facilities.