Article by Jessica SchianodiCola | esPResso Staff Writer
After the documentary Blackfish was released in 2013, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. found itself in a serious public relations crisis that the company has yet to fully recover from. The film exposed the park’s alleged mistreatment of its marine animals, specifically orcas, and rehashed several incidents like the death of animal trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.
Within a year of the film’s release, SeaWorld responded to the backlash by publishing several news releases, posting a minute-by-minute “Blackfish Analysis” on its Facebook page and website and uploading a series of videos on its YouTube account that campaigned “The Truth is in Our Parks & People.” However, according to Circa News, SeaWorld’s stock, as well as the park’s attendance revenue, continues to decline.
On March 23, SeaWorld continued to fight back and launched a new, long-term integrated campaign that, according to PRNewswire, “…highlights the company’s leadership in the care of killer whales.” The two-dimensional campaign consists of print advertisements as well as a digital component. SeaWorld veterinarians, researchers and other animal care specialists are featured in the print ads. The materials focus on the animal professionals sharing their personal experiences and future plans, which include a $10 million investment toward further studies of endangered killer whales in the wild.
The digital component aims to turn the campaign into a conversation between SeaWorld and its publics, as the company strongly encourages people to express their concerns and ask questions via Twitter and AskSeaWorld.com. The objective is to provide the public with enough concrete answers, facts and clarifications “So people can make up their own minds on this important issue,” said David D’Allessandro, chairman and interim chief executive officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
From a public relations perspective, creating a conversation with its publics could be SeaWorld’s saving grace. However, has the company’s window for redemption closed? Is it too late for the conglomerate marine park to regain trust? Evaluation during the new campaign could provide some indicators in the near future.