Michelle Michael: Set-up for success with social media investment

Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier
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Having invested in a new website, communications staff, a museum attraction and disco bikes, Michelle Michael, owner of the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare, has plenty of excitement to share – and she’s hired a social media team to do it.

After experiencing a “pretty poor easter” along with the rest of the seaside sector, Michelle Michael, operator of the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare, is betting on a summer to remember – and has invested accordingly.

Indeed, there’s certainly plenty to shout about on the Somerset seafront, with a “fantastic bank holiday” weekend kick-starting the season for the South West’s premier attraction, which has been working hard in the first few months of the year to warm-up potential
visitors through its social media channels and new website.

“We decided to take all of our media in house,” explained Michael.

“So now all of our social channels are managed by two ladies we’ve taken on – one of them a vlogger – and what they are able to do is capture content in real time. We’ve found that when we had external companies and consultants looking after our media channels, they don’t capture what’s happening right-here, right-now, and I think we have the kind of audience that wants that live, instantaneous information. The quality of film we are producing is a great way of showcasing our attractions, and we have also invested £40,000 in a new website for the Grand Pier, which displays the clips and provides
a simple explanation of what’s on offer.”

Along with new disco bikes, updates the arcade and fresh Marvel swag, the Grand Pier is launching a new Museum of Brands at the end of May,further diversifying its already broad offer.

“We’re just about to do the relevant press releases and a video clip to publicise the Museum of Brands, which is an attraction we’ve invested £50,000 towards in a joint venture with Robert Opie – the chap that owns all the artefacts. It will be a draw for all ages as it’s a history of consumables, from the 1900s right through to the present day.It’s a history talk for the kids of today,whereas before we were offering the history of our pier,we’re actually now able to offer them the history of what their favourite brands were like in previous decades. I think at the other end of the spectrum, it’s a very good reminder for older visitors who have memory or dementia issues,and it’s a fantastic tool to make them feel comfortable coming into an attraction like ours. It’s something that will attract all ages and bring them together around Britain’s most famous and long-lasting brands.We’ve had a fantastic reaction so far before it’s even begun, and people in the area that have an affinity for this kind of thing have already signed up as volunteers to help bring some of the exhibits to life.”

Speaking of bringing entertainment to life, Michael has been looking to bring in a virtual reality (VR) unit this year – keeping up the pier’s philosophy of being a the forefront of entertainment. However, this may now have to be postponed a year, as the Grand Pier takes a step back to re-study the market.

“We looked at VR this year but an agreement fell through, so we’re going back to the drawing board to investigate where else we can go for VR,” Michael detailed.

“I want a product I can change the software for – I think it’s a bit like gaming, once you’ve mastered the game, you want to see the next thing. So whilst the kit stays the same,I would like the content to keep evolving and changing, and that’s really what we are looking to find in the marketplace. I think it’s a matter of sitting back and waiting for the manufacturers out there to fix their glitches and work out what the customer wants – what I don’t want to be is the experiment. It’s definitely an interesting space, and a big part of the future.”

And for Michael, that future is bright – at least in the short term. While there are no clairvoyants to consult on the Grand Pier, she believes this season will be a sizzler.

“We’re always going to have challenges on the seaside,but looking at the bank holiday weekend just gone, it’s all about the weather,” said Michael.

“We have a lot of supporters in the local area that do actively think of us when the sun shines, so if we are geared up to offer excellent service to the customer when they are ready to come to us, I think that’s all we can do to get prepared. I’m really confident – having had a couple of poor weather summers – that the tide will change for us. I hope I don’t eat my words.”

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