Blackfish: Exposing a PR Problem

Blackfish

Image via IMDB

Have you seen Blackfish? It’s a documentary on the Killer Whales at SeaWorld that was released in October 2013, and is still garnering lots of attention. I had read so many articles about it, I finally sat down this morning to see what the 90-minute film was all about.

While the issues covered were ghastly, the major thing that stood out to me was the constant mention of “public relations” by the former SeaWorld employees who were being interviewed. (Getting distracted by PR is a problem, I know; I’m okay with it.)

One example is of a man who shared his story of how him and his coworkers were told to handle whales that died during the trapping process, indicating they’d cut them open and weigh them down with rocks so the deceased whale would sink to the bottom. He said he didn’t think what they were doing was illegal, he just “thought it was a PR move.”

Ouch.

Covering up a problem is exactly what PR is not (or should not be). The fact that he chalked up this horrific practice to “public relations” shows me that our field still has a long way to go until people understand we’re not the “spinsters” of the past. I would hope that (A) this practice is untrue or (B) there was a logical explanation for their methods. Regardless, the staff should have been educated on many levels, including, primarily, how to reduce/eliminate death during trapping and why them employed such archaic methods of handling a deceased animal.

(I understand that this documentary and the treatment of animals at SeaWorld is a very sensitive subject. My intention here is only to discuss the public relations implications and how businesses and organizations can learn from the mistakes that have been made during this crisis.)

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