“Gimme Some Truth” is one of my all-time favorite John Lennon songs, originally released in 1971 as “Give Me Some Truth” on the Imagine album. It is a song of frustration that addresses the nearly ever-present deception that was running rampant at the time. The song was produced by Phil Spector and featured a slide guitar solo by John’s fellow former Beatle, George Harrison. The song later became the subject of a 2000 documentary film Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine Album. Perhaps even more relevant today than it was in 1971, Gimme Some Truth is the title of a new deluxe box set of 36 remastered recordings that was released on October 9, 2000 – what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday.
I have been thinking the words “Gimme Some Truth” to myself quite a bit lately, not only when I watch the news or when I am presented with online or television advertising, but when I read press releases right here within the campground industry. I have always been a believer in the glass being half full, rather than half empty, and there is certainly nothing wrong with presenting things in a positive light. The problem is when the positive light crosses the spectrum into the realm of absolute deception. Having spent my career in advertising, I know the importance of putting a positive spin on things, but there is a chasm – not a fine line – between a positive spin and alternative facts. Keep this in mind when promoting your own business.
It has always been my belief that with the exception of an occasional run-down park with owners who are overdue for retirement, there are very few undesirable campgrounds, despite what might be suggested by sometimes negative reviews. There are simply instances where, perhaps due to the way that a park has been marketed, the wrong campers choose to book a stay at the wrong campground. Every campground has its ideal clientele, and it is important that your park is not marketed in a way that presents itself as something that it is not, encouraging reservations by the “wrong” campers. It is far better to be booked at less than full capacity than to book even a single guest who will spell trouble.
There is a long list of characteristics that determine the types of campers to which any particular park will appeal. Determine where your park fits within these parameters, then formulate how to positively but accurately portray your park to the masses of campers who are seeking out a park exactly like yours.
- Is your park considered large, or is it small?
- Is your park located near major attractions, or is it in a remote setting?
- Does your park offer non-stop activities, or does it offer guests an opportunity to relax and “get away from it all”?
- If your park is next to a busy highway, you may want to promote easy access but not peace and quiet. You should also not promote a peaceful setting if your park is down the road from a shooting range, a kennel, or other source of frequent noise.
- On the same token, do not promote dark skies at your park if the sky actually glows with the light from a nearby shopping center parking lot.
- Does your park cater to seasonal campers? If so, do your transient campers find it difficult to feel welcome?
- Does your park cater to big rigs? If so, if tents and pop-ups are allowed, do their owners feel out of place?
- If your park caters to an older, retired clientele, are families still welcome? Will visiting grandchildren feel like they are in a reform school rather than a campground?
- Is your campground at the upper scale of predominant rates in your area, or is it highly affordable?
Then there is a set of questions where the answers are not quite black and white, but where the wrong expectations can lead to serious misunderstandings and the ever-dreaded negative reviews:
- If you say that pets are welcome, do you have a list of breeds that are not allowed? Telling a pet owner that his dog is part of a “vicious breed” is comparable to telling a parent that his child is ugly.
- If Wi-Fi is provided at your park, are you describing its coverage, bandwidth and reliability without exaggeration?
- If you say that your park is “handicapped accessible”, is your park truly making an effort toward ADA compliance?
Finally, in the midst of a pandemic, are you making everything as clear as possible prior to your guests’ arrivals?
- Are you flexible in instances of cancellations and refund requests, particularly during a pandemic?
- If activities and nearby events are either cancelled or subject to cancellation, and if nearby attractions are closed or operating under limited capacities, are you informing your guests to the best of your ability at the time of reservation?
- If your guests are required due to either state regulations or simple common sense, to wear facemasks, practice social distancing or avoid assembling into groups, are those policies disclosed at the time of reservation?
- If your store, snack bar, swimming pool, or other facilities are closed, operating with restrictions or require reservations for use, are your guests aware of those limitations prior to their arrival?
As you can see, many if not most problems arise from a lack of careful and honest communications, and those communications start well in advance of the time of registration. Try not to present your park with the words that you might think your potential guests might like to hear rather than an accurate and thorough description of what the park offers, what it doesn’t offer, and why the majority of your guests like it for exactly what it is. Life is too complicated, and running your business profitably is more challenging now than ever. Help yourself to succeed in that endeavor by treating your prospective guests to the truth that they deserve.
This post was written by Peter Pelland