Don Helbig, Area Manager, Public Relations at Kings Island, is living the dream. He describes his role at the park as a “dream opportunity.”
July 1, 2017 marked his 10th anniversary as a member of the marketing team at Kings Island. His favorite roller coaster is The Racer.
If you’ve ever met Don, then you know he’s a champion of marketing and public relations for Kings Island. He can enthusiastically share in great detail about all of the park’s countless attractions such as Diamondback, Banshee and Mystic Timbers, just to name a few.
In light of his 10th anniversary at Kings Island, we talked to Helbig about his role at Kings Island, how he’s incorporating technology into the park’s marketing plans, and some of the ways the popular attraction is giving back to the community.
Q: Tell us about yourself. Are you a native of Cincinnati? What’s your favorite thing about Kings Island?
A: I grew up in Cincinnati in the Eastgate area. I’ve lived in Fairfield for most of the past 20 years. Going to Cincinnati’s Coney Island was always the big thing my family did each summer and that transitioned to Kings Island when the park opened in 1972. My favorite thing about Kings Island all the years I was visiting the park as a guest was the atmosphere — the music on International Street as you entered the park, the band organ music from the Grand Carousel, the sound of the steam trains and midway games. Now, as a member of the marketing team, my favorite thing about Kings Island is watching families have that best day of the year experience when I am out in the park and interacting and engaging with our guests on a daily basis.
Q: What first brought you to your role at Kings Island?
A: I had been working in professional hockey for 18 years in public relations, marketing and as a radio broadcaster and had just completed my first season with a team in Albany, N.Y., when Bill Mefford, who had been a member of the park’s public relations team in the 1980’s, reached out in 2007 around Memorial Day to let me know Kings Island had a public relations position open, and he thought I’d be a good fit. I was happy, content and well established in professional hockey and my family enjoyed Albany, but I always wanted to be a PR person in the amusement and theme park industry, and specifically at Kings Island since I had grown up with the park. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I threw my name in the ring and ended up getting the opportunity. And Bill was right. It has been a good fit.
Q: You are celebrating a milestone anniversary; can you say a word about that?
A: The past 10 years have flown by incredibly fast. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun.
Q: What do you consider some of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
A: In my career, I’ve seen the birth of the internet, mobile and social media. I’ve continued to evolve, and as a result, wherever I’ve been I’ve been able to step into the position and boost awareness, build brand recognition and engage audiences through traditional PR and digital marketing. To me, that’s my biggest accomplishment. Being able to evolve with the times.
Q: Can you touch on a few highlights or share a memorable experience or two?
A: Daredevil Robbie Knievel’s record-breaking motorcycle jump in 2008 at Kings Island, bringing back some of the cast from The Brady Bunch for appearances in 2008 and 2013, and press announcements for Diamondback in 2009, Banshee in 2014 and Mystic Timbers last summer immediately come to mind.
Q: What’s your favorite roller coaster at Kings Island, and why?
A: The Racer. It was the first roller coaster I ever rode the year Kings Island opened in 1972. There’s not many memories that I have from the 1980s that doesn’t have that ride in it. I was at the park riding it almost daily from 1981 to 1990.
Q: How have you seen Kings Island grow and evolve during your tenure?
A: Technology has changed the way we communicate, engage and interact with our guests. Our guests choose the channels and how and when we interact with them. Adding story-driven attractions like Mystic Timbers is another way Kings Island has evolved, giving our guests more than just a new roller coaster and making it more of an immersive experience.
Q: How have you continued to serve families and the community within your role at Kings Island?
A: Primarily by being involved in the process and driving awareness for some of events that we do such as the annual A Kid Again outing, JDRF walks, events to help raise money to kick cancer that help others. Just having someone in the community hear about some of these events and they get involved makes a difference.
Q: What are some ways Kings Island continues to support the community and gives back?
A: The park gives back to the community through in-kind donations for charitable and nonprofit organizations and fundraising events, including the annual outing for A Kid Again, which is a nonprofit group which is dedicated to providing fun-filled outings and ongoing support to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in the Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus areas, and JDRF, with thousands lacing up their sneakers every year and participating in a walk. The JDRF walk at the park has raised more than $12 million since 1994, including $700,000 this year.
Q: What’s in store for the year ahead?
A: Halloween Haunt in the fall and the return of WinterFest this holiday season are two big events we’re working on now.
Anything else you’d like to share?
A: People will tell me that working at Kings Island has to be my dream job and I’ll tell them that every job I’ve had has been a dream job. What Kings Island is is a dream opportunity.
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