On Top of PR with Jason Mudd

Mall of America: Staying afloat in turbulent times with Dan Jasper

September 21, 2021 Jason Mudd, Axia Public Relations Episode 62
On Top of PR with Jason Mudd
Mall of America: Staying afloat in turbulent times with Dan Jasper
Show Notes Transcript

Dan Jasper is director of public relations at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

Five things you’ll learn from this episode:

  1. How Mall of America, as a major retail destination consistently providing first-class experiences, dealt with different challenges brought by COVID-19 and went beyond the extra mile by over-communicating what is happening at Mall of America, and what you can expect when you come here so that you can plan ahead and have the best experience
  2.  How they handle protests fairly as private property holders and public figure appearances safely, and how Mall of America helped minority-owned businesses be successful and reach an enormous audience that they didn't reach before
  3.   Discover the best PR practices that can help businesses win COVID-19 challenges.
  4.   How Mall of America extended help to several impacted communities
  5.   How social media is more than just a marketing tool; it is indeed a relationship-building tool. 

Quotables

  •  "Go the extra mile when you're talking safety and all of the precautions in place. Go beyond what you think is necessary in terms of communicating with the guests. We really try to over-communicate what is happening at Mall of America — what you can expect when you come here — so that you can plan ahead and have the best experience." — Dan Jasper
  • “Every year we have more than 40 million annual visitors and about 60% of those are what we call drive market or local; the rest are either across the nation or from other nations, international travel coming here, and there's no way to reach all of those people.” — Dan Jasper
  • "We have a lot of partners in the community that are willing to reach out and help us secure this building. We had a lot of friends in the community that just showed support." — Dan Jasper
  • "We reached out to businesses that were impacted, schools — everyone we could think of with destroyed property — and extended our help. We specifically asked how we could help them as a mall. So, the first thing we did was we listened to impacted communities." — Dan Jasper

About Dan Jasper

Dan Jasper has served as the amazing director of public relations at Mall of America for 17 years and has more than 20 years of PR and communications experience prior to that. Dan leads public relations, community relations, social media, storytelling, tourism, and the advanced service portal at the Mall of America. He is a key national spokesperson for the mall. He also manages crisis communications and government affairs.

Guest’s contact info and resources:

Sponsored by:

  • On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations. Forbes recognizes Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
  • On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
  • Burrelles has a special offer for On Top of PR fans

About your host, Jason Mudd

On Top of PR host Jason Mudd is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. He founded Axia Public Relations in 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/OnTopofPR)

- [Narrator] Welcome to "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.

- Hello and welcome to "On Top of PR," I'm your host Jason Mudd joined today by my friend, Dan Jasper, from The Mall of America. Dan is a friend of mine, someone I think who may have one of the coolest jobs in America, certainly could possibly be a dream job for me as well. But Dan leads public relations, community relations, social media, tourism, and the advanced service portal as well as storytelling at the Mall of America. He is a key national spokesperson for the mall. He also manages crisis communications and government affairs. Dan has been at the mall of America for 17 years and has more than 20 years of PR and communications experience prior to that. He loves to tell stories of the mall and I love having Dan here on the show. Welcome Dan, glad you're here.

- Thanks Jason, it's good to be here.

- Yeah, I'm really glad to be here with you and having this conversation. For full disclosure, Dan and I met through me cold calling him and saying, Dan, I have a client who's giving way a lot of money to a worthy individual and we need somewhere to do it and brainstorming we thought, how about the Mall of America? And I remember Dan, you said, you know, you welcomed us with open arms, which nobody thought would happen on our end and nor on the client's side, and in addition to that, we were successful in attracting a lot of media attention, which people said, "Oh, you know, if you do something at the mall, the media is going to be rather cynical about coming there." And I think we had a good successful event and I was pleased, the client was pleased, you were pleased, and we just thank you for that obviously, but also I thank you for the friendship we've developed ever since.

- Absolutely. It's been fun getting to know you Jason, over the years, and I remember that first call and that event and you never know what will happen from a call, right?

- Yeah, exactly. Yeah, absolutely. That client had a lot of good fortune of giving money away during the Great Recession to worthy individuals, and we did another event at a, you know, kind of a, how do you say a milestone or a landmark location in Chicago of which everyone thought we weren't going to be able to do also. So it's about timing and having a good message-

- Yeah.

- And good partners. I've always felt like PR people work really well together and I've always used and relied on PR people to help make introductions on behalf of our clients so. And then I guess just for full disclosure, you know, Dan, for our audience, you and I get to see each other almost every year when my family makes their annual pilgrimage up to a lake cabin in North Minnesota, we stop at the Mall of America and you're always so generous to meet with me and give us the VIP experience.

- We do. We've met almost every year for a number of years now. It's always fun seeing you, and I agree, the PR community is kind of a small community and it's fun to reach out and connect with people from different regions in different states, and I've built some great relationships that way.

- Yeah absolutely, me too, and I tell my clients all the time, well, let's start with the PR contact and see where things go from there. And you know, where I think clients, sometimes, they want to start with legal or operations and those people, God bless them, are trained to say no, right? Versus, you know, how might we? So anyway, Dan, I've had the privilege of kind of being behind the scenes and seeing how your organization operates. I'm always impressed with different things, but let's just start with talking about COVID and how, you know, you and your organization have managed through COVID and what are some of the lessons learned? And I guess for those that don't know, before you answer that, why don't you just give us like a two sentence, three sentence summary of the Mall of America and, you know, its size and economic impact kind of thing.

- Sure, I'd be happy to. Mall of America is really big. Sometimes I love to stop right there. It actually is, it's an enormous building. It's 5.6 million square feet. If you've never been here, it's hard to imagine. We have the nation's largest indoor theme park in the middle of the mall, 520 stores, two attached hotels, 13,000 people work inside this building, about 1,000 of those are our own employees, and we have an enormous economic impact, about $3 billion a year on the state of Minnesota. So this is a place that has a huge impact, not only on the local community, but the entire state, and it's an experience. For someone who's never been here, it is an experience. And going through COVID was an experience, right? I remember the day that we shut down, we'd been talking about it for weeks prior. We actually shut at five o'clock on March 17th, 2020. And for us, we actually put out some PR messaging saying, you know, we're shutting for a duration of two weeks hoping that by the end of the month, we would be back. We did not reopen again until June 10th. It was an enormous closure, our theme park and our attractions didn't open until August 10th of that year, and that was due to state restrictions. So it was hard and we furloughed 95% of our team, our tenants furloughed more than that of their team members. You go from a building that's bustling with on average, 110,000 people a day in this building down to 30 or 40.

- Right.

- It was like a ghost town.

- Yeah.

- We had to keep it functioning, we had to keep it secure. You know, we had to keep the mechanics working and the lights working and the plants alive, but it was a really stark and scary transition and it was frightening because none of us knew what was coming, just like the rest of our country and the world to be quite honest. But as a team, we pulled together and did some amazing things during the shutdown and then leading up to our reopening. Taking a ton of safety measures, we exceeded all local and state mandates from a safety perspective, to make sure that the experience once our guests returned, that it was a good experience and not as scary. They felt comfortable, they were ready to come back. Our traffic started gradually again on June 10th, we were just building up. It was just before Thanksgiving of 2020, we had a bunch of holiday plans in place and the state of Minnesota went back down to another restriction, we had another wave and all of our attraction closed, all of our restaurants closed just before the holidays and we had to furlough people again. So it's been this up and down rollercoaster ride. I would say probably the key lesson learned from us is go the extra mile when you're taking safety and all of the precautions in place, and we really did go the extra mile and then go beyond what you think is necessary in terms of communicating with the guests. We communicated every way that we thought possible and there were still people that weren't aware, and that's still the case to this day. So we really try to over-communicate what is happening at Mall of America, what you can expect when you come here, so that you can plan ahead and have the best experience.

- Yeah, that's great. You know, I was talking to a colleague of mine recently who was frustrated because she had been trying to get some messages out for everyone in the community to understand, and, you know, eventually people started raising their hand going, "Man, I wish I would've known about this," and she was just exhausted by it and I just said, hey, people are so busy and unless you've got, you know, a million dollar a month budget for, you know, the geography she was operating in, you're just not going to get everybody. And, you know, people like to only be interested in something when they don't like what ended up happening. So, you know, I kind of was trying to express that to her too. And I think similarly, you know, you've got the same challenge of you know, there's no way to really get everybody's attention. And as you know, how can you predict who's going to roll up to your location every day, especially when you have people like, you know, me and my family coming from across the country, right, to come visit. So, you know-

- Yeah.

- It's not reasonable for you to have a budget that could reach everybody that could possibly ever decide suddenly or plan a trip to come to the Mall of America, and that's one of the inside benefits I've had is being able to reach out to you and say, hey, what's going on there because maybe we need to plan on, you know, doing something else while we're in Minneapolis?

- No, you're exactly right. And in fact, you know, every year we have more than 40 million annual visitors and only about 60% of those are what we call drive market or local, within a six hour drive.

- Okay.

- So the rest are either across the nation or from other nations, right? International travel coming here-

- Right.

- And there's no way to reach all of those people.

- That's right.

- So you do your best, you try to cover all of your bases, but you're always going to have people showing up. And one of my true pleasures of working in this job Jason, to be quite honest, is meeting folks like you and getting to see somebody every year, that's a treat, and I actually do that with a bunch of different people-

- Okay.

- And it's something to look forward to and it's part of our hospitality mentality here at Mall of America.

- I love that. Yeah, that's really good. You know, other than me not feeling like the only one anymore, you know, I love that, that's a good story so.

- You're top of the list.

- That's right. Though my next question is how long is the list and what does the top look like? I'm just kidding. So Dan, I think during this episode, we're going to talk in my mind about a lot of challenges that you've faced and overcome, but for our audience, I want them to know that the Mall of America is a great place, it's very clean, there is a lot of retail options when you're there. Three or four stories, Dan?

- Yeah, we have actually four stories, three of them go the entire perimeter of the mall and then the fourth story goes halfway around.

- Right.

- The fourth floor is typically attractions and restaurants and then the other three floors are retail attractions and restaurants. If you walk just one level of our mall, it's 1.1 miles-

- Yeah.

- To give you an idea of how big it is.

- Yeah.

- So you can essentially do a 5K here easily.

- Yeah. Well, and I mentioned how big it is because every time I go, I kind of have this personal mission to walk all four floors, and so that fourth floor is, like you mentioned, a little bit unique, but yeah, that's just, it's something I do every time I'm there just to see everything. It's always the business person in myself gets, you know, interested to see what's going on, you know, with retail, with promotions, with staffing most recently, with hours and closures and things like that. So, you know, I know what was also interesting, and you didn't mention this so I'll just mention it real quick and that is a lot of the national retailers had certain policies, you know, like Apple, "All our stores are closed. All of our stores are, no customers come in, but we'll serve them from the door." And so while I've had the opportunity to visit during this pandemic, I've seen, you know, some stores absolutely closed because they are nationwide, I've seen reduced hours and things like that, and so it's interesting as you as a major retail destination have all of these representation, if you will, from different brands that have different policies so. But my point is really to say, Mall of America is fantastic, there's been a lot of challenges that you've had to overcome and we're going to talk a lot about those today, but I don't want people to think that, you know, they're not going to come to the Mall of America or they're going to come to Mall of America and not have anything else than a first-class experience. So.

- Yeah, thank you for saying that, and it really is a first-class experience. And you know, the really interesting thing is you talk about some of the national retail brands, and we have some amazing ones here, there are actually many of them that have two or three locations inside Mall of America.

- [Jason] That always blows me away. Yes, they do, they do.

- It's that big, right?

- Yeah.

- They might have the same store on three levels. So that gives you an indication of how large it is, but we've managed through the pandemic, we've worked with our tenants to meet their needs as well as our guests' needs.

- Yeah.

- And yeah, for those who haven't been here, it's a great experience, please come.

- Yeah. All right well, we're going to take a quick break before we dive into more details here. I think we're just getting warmed up, Dan.

- [Narrator] You're listening to "On Top of PR" with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now, back to the show.

- Welcome back to "On Top of PR," I'm of course your host, Jason Mudd, I'm joined by my friend, Dan Jasper. Dan, we were just really getting warmed up here. I'll just make the comment that you mentioned that some retailers have multiple locations in your store. Of course, talking to family, you know, like, "Where are you? Let's catch up," and they're like, "Oh, I'm at this store." And I'm like, "Okay, which one?" And they're like, "What do you mean which one?" You know? And so, you know, again, being in marketing, I'm very tuned into those things, but the rest of my family members, casual consumers, aren't so much. But let's talk obviously, you know, when something big happens in Minneapolis, for example, George Floyd, that obviously is immediately impactful to you, your teams and your logistics and otherwise. Kind of walk us through maybe even just starting the day that that murder occurred-

- Yeah.

- What happened from there from you guys and how did your operations and communications team work together?

- Sure, and that was a really challenging time, not only for our team, for our community. Obviously for the nation-

- Absolutely.

- This is a huge issue. But for the Twin Cities market, that massive protest and what grew out of that, you know, this was where that started and it was traumatic. We had shut down on March 17th for COVID and we were actually planning to open on June 1st. George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day weekend just before we were planning to open. Nobody really quite knew what the impact was until about the next day. It kind of took a little time for everything to get going.

- [Jason] Right.

- And there are so many things we can say from the community, the greater community perspective, that went wrong and that perhaps none of us handled well, right? And there was clearly pent up, in my mind, justified rage over these injustices, but we were also all in shock from COVID and then this, the demonstrations started and as everyone saw on the news, there was a lot of violence and a lot of businesses were damaged in the Twin Cities area. So we went into ultra crisis mode because we were already in crisis mode, and most of our team was on furlough. So we didn't have the assets that we would normally have.

- Right.

- So people, the team that was in place were literally working 20 hours a day for three weeks. It was really draining. But we looked at our communications, both our internal public, right? We need to talk to our employees, we need to talk to our tenants, we need to talk to our guests.

- Right.

- We need to talk to the greater community and then how do we work to protect this property? We weren't sure if damage would happen here. So all of these elements were happening at the same time utilizing a small team of people that are exhausted. So it was an enormous challenge. I think we handled it well. I think there's a couple of really good lessons learned, that we learned from this. One is we have a lot of partners in the community that were willing to reach out and help us secure this building, this property, to make sure that damage wasn't here. Two, we had a lot of friends in the community that just showed support. But there was a messaging issue as well. We tend to lead our communication strategy, we like to lead with results and with actions before we lead with words, right?

- Okay.

- A lot of brands immediately came out on social and other platforms in very strong solidarity with BLM, with other groups. That's not our brand message typically, and we like to say the proof's in the pudding, what are we really doing? Does it benefit us just to go out and say something or are we really trying to make change in our society?

- Right, yeah.

- Right?

- Yeah.

- We've been on this process for a number of years now. So we were relatively quiet on social media through the first couple of weeks of the outrage and even beyond that, and quite honestly, some of our younger team members were really not thrilled with us. They did not support our decision, they didn't like that. We were communicating internally, but we weren't taking the bold stance that they felt we should be taking as a brand externally. And I'll tell you, I can't tell you how many meetings we had to discuss this and it kept coming back to, we don't want to just say something, we want to show that we're doing something and those protests, that civil unrest, the damage to property in the Twin Cities led us to doing some really wonderful things over the following months, and I'd love to share a couple of those stories if I can because this is how we told our story, right? So for one, we reached out to businesses that were impacted, schools, everyone we could think of that their property was destroyed and we said, we want to help you. How do we help you as a mall? So the first thing we did was we listened to impacted communities.

- Good, yes. So important.

- You know, we didn't just say we're going to do things, we got as much feedback as we could and we had people bluntly honest with us, right? People that have been friends in the past and people that have been not as friendly in the past, but they gave us honest feedback, and ultimately three different things, three major things resulted from that. First was there was a kind of an ad hoc food shelf that happened in South Minneapolis. At the time it was called The Sheridan Story. It's has since changed its name, but they were providing food to all of the impacted families and businesses, right? Grocery stores burned down in Minneapolis, other things. They ran out of space. So we quickly gave them, I think it was about 8,000 square feet inside Mall of America.

- Wow.

- "Set up here rent free"-

- Yeah.

- "We'll help you," right? So we got them up and running, they're still here by the way, working out of our space. The next thing we did was one of the things we did was one of the schools, the largest charter school in Minnesota, their building was burned down during the protests. We reached out to them and said, "Let us help you." So we set up, you know, over a number of meetings, we worked with them, but for the past school year, we set up a school space for them inside Mall of America. We got all the furniture donated, we got all the IT donated-

- Incredible.

- Rent free. So their students didn't have to be impacted. They could come to school.

- Wow.

- Right?

- Yeah. Their former school was on the light rail line in Minneapolis, we're on the light rail line-

- Right.

- In Bloomington. So they could just hop on the train, get down here. It was another way we could reach out and live our actions as opposed to just speaking about them.

- [Jason] Love that, yeah, love that.

- And then the third, there were a lot of small entrepreneurs and businesses that were destroyed during the protests. So in our listening sessions and talking to people, we created a 5,000 square foot space here at Mall of America that we called community commons and we brought on a marketing branding company who did it for free, who helped develop the brand for these companies. So we got 17 of these entrepreneurs-

- [Jason] That's great.

- All of whom were minority owned businesses. They had rent free inside Mall of America. We gave them marketing support, social media support, we taught them how to improve their businesses. At the end of six months, then we transitioned to a new group of minority owned businesses. Of that original group, eight of them actually took new space in the mall on their own, set up their own businesses inside Mall of America-

- [Jason] Okay.

- And we gave very favorable leasing terms to them. So it's turned into this wonderful diversity-based incubator system for entrepreneurs and new businesses at a price point that they can afford and where they can be successful, and yet they can learn all these new skills and reach an enormous audience that they didn't reach before. So those are three of the ways that we worked our way through this really tragic period in the Twin Cities history, but did it in a way to lead with our actions as opposed to our words.

- Right. No, that makes perfect sense. What a great story, Dan, and now that you mention it, I think I can recognize some of those new retail stores that seem to be, you know, independent and, you know, kind of up and coming if you will, versus-

- Yeah.

- You know, the typical, stereotypical, very polished and, you know, massaged and precise kind of footprint. So yeah, absolutely. That's very cool. And, you know, we could talk for hours here and one thing I want to make sure we absolutely cover is I want to talk about how your organization made the decision to bring together your comms team and get it a little bit closer to the security team, and then I also, as I mentioned earlier before we started, pressed record, really want to make sure we talk about, you know, what it's like to be operating social media in such a dynamic environment that you have there. So whichever of those two you want to start with Dan, take it away.

- Sure, I would love to, thank you for bringing it up. We created a space that we call our enhanced service portal and it is right next to our emergency operation center. So the backstory is years ago, we would have something that would happen at Mall of America and our phone operators lived in one area of the mall in the sub level, our PR team was in another area of the mall in a sub-level, our social team was in a different area, our security was in a different area, and if something happened, none of us were on the same page. We didn't have this unified messaging to handle, how are we going to talk to our public, internal and external public? And in fact, it came to light one day when I was down there and one of our phone operators, who at the time happened to be a wonderful woman who was nearing retirement and she'd made it to my office all the way across the mall and she was out of breath and she didn't know about an event that was happening and it dawned on me then, wow, we need to fix this situation, right? We're not all on the same page. So we put together a project team to develop our enhanced service portal. So we created an actual physical space where our social media team lives, where our PR team lives, our emergency operations, our security. It's actually a really cool space. I can't remember Jason, if you've actually seen this space. If not, I'd love to show it to you some time, but it's a way that we can make sure that we're all on the same page real time. So if something happens inside the mall or impacting the mall, whether that's favorable or something crisis related, we're all connected immediately and we can make sure that we're on the same page, sharing the same messaging, both with our team members, our tenants, our guests, external public, media. So it was really derived from this history of kind of jumbled communications to "We need to figure this out." And I think we came up with a process that works really, really well and truth to that is that we've had probably 100, maybe 150 different companies from across the country come and tour the space to learn from us. How do we manage this? What's our strategy behind it? What's the software we use? What is the marketing and the comms strategy, right? Because they're unique. And what's the customer service strategy and the security strategy? And it's been quite successful. We don't do everything perfectly, we've made our mistakes.

- [Jason] Sure.

- But it is a process and it's a strategy that we implemented in a physical space that's worked really well for us.

- Excellent. Well yes, so I've seen the space-

- Yeah.

- Before and after and, you know, I think you were telling me about it and I said, let's go see it, I want to see it you know? So I'm a very visual person and I think that's really important, and I remember when you first told me about when you guys first did it, I really thought that you know, maybe it's something we need to revisit but something that would be kind of worth profiling either on our blog or some of the, you know, publications that I write for about, you know, best practices and public relations and corporate communications. So yeah, I'm not surprised people want to learn from you guys. I know you're, like you just demonstrated, you're good at listening and sharing and helping in the community, both you and the corporation, and I think for our audience at home, they also have to be kind of mindful of this whole idea that you know, you are a destination for both, you know, shopping and retailing and attractions and restaurants and everyone knows where the mall is and how to get there so it's a very, you know, kind of, you know, an easy landmark or destination. But in turn, you also, that brings with it some challenges such as people want to do protests or sit-ins, or other things that maybe we'll call them not necessarily invited guest activities or something like that, I'm sure you have a politically correct term for that. But, you know, whether that be maybe an unexpected flash mob or a demonstration or something like that, maybe just talk about that for a minute for us.

- Sure, and anyone who does a Google search will see that there have been a lot of demonstrations and protests at Mall of America. We actually, years ago, took this to the supreme court, the state supreme court, and they deemed that we're private property and that we have the right to not allow protests here, right? Because a lot of groups thinks it's kind of a town square-

- [Jason] Right.

- Where anyone can do whatever they want.

- [Jason] Right.

- In truth we're a place of business and we need to judge that. You know, when we've had some of our protests, the main thing about this is that we need to be consistent, right? We can't pick groups that we love and let them get away with the protest, but groups that we may not agree with-

- Yeah.

- Ban them, right? So we're very consistent in our stance that we just don't allow demonstrations and protests here. Again, that's challenging for some of our younger team members who might really align with the group that wants to do a protest at Mall of America.

- Right.

- And so it's an communications and an education process with the external public as well as our internal public, explaining that, you know, "We get that you're upset that we're not allowing this to happen, but how would you feel if this group that's totally opposed to your viewpoint came and did the same thing?"

- [Jason] Yeah.

- Right?

- Right.

- If we're opening the door for one, we have to open the door for everybody-

- [Jason] Yeah.

- And that's just not a recipe for success. So it's been challenging. There have been some very large protests that have happened here. We work with law enforcement and other entities and we try to work with that group's leadership to give them alternatives, but ultimately, there's a line in the sand, which is, you know, this is a place of commerce and we need to protect our rights-

- Absolutely.

- As private property holders.

- [Jason] Yeah.

- So it's been a challenge but it's also been an educational opportunity for our team members and the greater public.

- Yeah. Perfect. Yeah and so, you know, the other thing that people may not realize is you have both expected celebrity guests and unexpected celebrity guests that, you know, make their way to the mall either in a scheduled promotional event or maybe even a concert or an autograph session or other appearances, just like you have also lots of product launches that take place at the mall or test markets for certain products. And, you know, I was even there recently when a celebrity I certainly didn't recognize, but my kids did was there walking around with his entourage and whoever he was, I don't remember his name now, but he was certainly very very generous and genuine as you saw, you know, young, you know, seven, nine-year-old girls walking up and asking for an autograph, and then, you know, guys may be a little bit younger than me walking up and just kind of fist bumping or whatever, and my assumption is that he's in some sort of entertainment line of work with music, but anyway, talk about just dealing with celebrities and how you guys maybe handle that when you have a guest who just kind of rolled in all of a sudden

- Yeah, and over the years, we've had literally thousands of celebrities here and we've done thousands of events with celebrities, movie stars, music stars, now it's YouTube stars-

- Oh yeah, right?

- And TikTok stars are huge. Right?

- Yeah, yeah.

- And like you, I would have no clue who they are but I see the crowd gathering around them.

- [Jason] Yeah, that's right.

- We love when a celebrity works with us ahead of time and we can arrange for it, right? Because then we can manage the crowds, we can keep everyone safe-

- That's right.

- But we do have celebrities that just show up and oftentimes they will draw a crowd. We just, for instance, a couple of weeks ago, and I'm not going to share the names but they posted on social media as well, we had a couple of NBA stars who typically don't have the opportunity to be out and spend time with their kids. So we opened our theme park, Nickelodeon Universe, early for them so they could have some private time with their kids, and they did some great posts from there, but they stayed once the theme park opened to the public and they were so generous, but the crowds grew so quickly, right?

- Right.

- And we have to keep everyone safe and manage that. So it's challenging. Our main thing is that we want to make sure we provide a really good experience and keep everyone safe, that's our top priority at all times. That takes logistics from operations, from our events team, from our security team, from their private security team. You know, there's a lot of details that go into a simple appearance-

- Sure, right.

- That the audience might think is a simple appearance.

- [Jason] Right.

- You know, but we've had some, we've had an unimaginable number of events at Mall of America. I would start dropping names, but I forget all of them, there's been so many here.

- [Jason] Sure.

- My favorites, or maybe not quite so favorites are some of the boy bands and the younger, in my time here, right? So we had the Jonas brothers once where there were 6,000 screaming 12-year-old girls in the rotunda

- Right.

- And we had the "Twilight" cast where there were 8,000 screaming 12-year-old girls and we had Zac Efron when there were about 13,000 screaming 12-year-old girls, and we had New Kids on the Block when there were about 14,000 screaming 45-year-old women. That one was a challenge.

- [Jason] Sure, yeah, I believe it.

- You know, but all the groups, the key thing is we love to have celebrities come and events come that appeal to all different groups because that's kind of what makes us special. Like you said, you were here with your family and you saw a celebrity, how fun is that? To see them enjoying their time here as well.

- Right, absolutely. Okay, so first of all, I understand that if people want to connect with you, the best way to do that is on LinkedIn, and so we'll provide a link to your LinkedIn profile, which of course, Dan Jasper's pretty easy to spell and find and Mall of America if you need help finding it, but we'll put a link to it on our show notes. Closing question to you, Dan, 'cause unfortunately we're running out of time, share some social media best practices that you've, you know, you and your team have learned and lived through the work at Mall of America, maybe some of those tips will relate to what you shared in the training to those small and emerging businesses that you kind of incubated for a little while, but just overall for our audience who are typically like you corporate communications, marketing professionals working on the client side or on the brand side, what are some kind of best tips and maybe even some unique things that you guys are doing to engage in real time with your audience members?

- Sure, I'd be happy to. First of all, yeah, look for me on LinkedIn and if anyone is in the neighborhood, stopping by Mall of America, I'd be happy to show you around as well. Jason's going to remain top of the list, but I would invite you to come and visit and pay us a visit. For social media, we really try to be authentic to our voice and our brand. I think that's the key thing, right? Being true to yourself. We look at it as a relationship building tool as opposed to a marketing tool is how we view social media. So we don't use it to push sales, to push other things. Occasionally we use it in those terms, but for the most part, we view our social media channels and ESP, our enhanced service portal as a way to engage with the guest and to build this great vast network of friends one person at a time. And we do that through a number of strategies, right? Which is our voice, having a fun voice. And our social media community managers are really good at knowing what the customer wants. They can tell if they're angry or if they just need information and then they'll give them a straightforward answer or they can tell if they want to have some fun. We have some signs around where you can text us. We also have a texting platform, which is an awesome way to communicate with us. And one says something we should know and one time a guest texted in saying, "Did you know that the lifespan of the common house fly is 24 hours?" And without missing a beat, our community manager replied saying, "Well, let's hope they live life to its fullest."

- That's good.

- That's listening to the guest-

- [Jason] Right.

- Knowing what the guest wants and keeping your brand voice in mind, right?

- Yes. Yeah, very good.

- We didn't say, "I don't get it. Do you want to know where the restrooms are?" We engaged with them on the level that they really wanted-

- Right.

- And that they needed. And I think, and that's part of what we try to teach some of these emerging brands we work with is be honest and build those relationships one at a time and be true to your brand and your voice. That's where you're going to find success

- [Jason] Right, yes.

- And that's been our recipe.

- One thing I tell clients all the time and even our internal team is that the social media successes that you know and love come from having personality, right?

- Yes.

- And so, you know, when a brand doesn't have personality on social media and they're very vanilla, it's very hard for them to stay engaging and interesting, and that's why you see not only small businesses who have fanatical fans or raving fans about how good their products and services are, but they also have a little bit of an edge, you know, a slant that makes them attractive to their community and makes it fun for their community to follow them, and I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in, you know, being corporate communications and almost robot like in our responses that we wonder why no one cares to follow us on social media so good tip.

- Yeah, I agree. And that's key for us is have our fun brand voice out front, that's important.

- Yeah, absolutely. Dan, this has been a great episode. We'll have to reconnect for another one in the future 'cause I think that we can keep talking about these things and exploring these. I guarantee our audience is going to say, "You know, I'd love to connect with Dan on LinkedIn and if I'm ever in the area, would love to take advantage of a tour," I would say do it in a heartbeat. For sure, Dan's good people and very generous with his time and sharing best practices. So Dan, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for all you do for me and for our community of public relations and corporate communications professionals, and thank you for all that you do with the Mall of America, and certainly we just touched on that and showed some of the big ways you guys give back to the community.

- Thank you, Jason. It's been a pleasure.

- Yeah, thank you. The pleasure has been all mine and thank you for tuning into this episode of "On Top of PR." If you heard something here you thought was valuable, please share it with a colleague or a friend that you think would benefit from this episode. I know I'm going to do the same myself and share this with some of the members of my team and other contacts that I have in the profession. Other than that, if you have a specific topic you'd like us to address, please reach out to us. And if you take a moment to subscribe, we would really appreciate that too. Again, this is Jason Mudd signing off from "On Top of PR." Thank you to Dan, our guest, and Mall of America for letting him participate today. Otherwise, be well and stay tuned for our future episode.

- [Narrator] This has been "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxar. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode and check out past shows at OnTopOfPR.com.