SeaWorld’s Response to Blackfish: Lackluster at Best

I apologize in advance for the multiple posts on Blackfish, but I just saw it this morning and two very different topics came to mind that I wanted to address. Bear with me.

When it comes to dealing with a crisis, in addition to the millions of other things to consider, you must consider the way in which the threat came in. For SeaWorld, it was through a 90-minute documentary. How do you address this issue? For SeaWorld, they’ve taken steps by updating their website to address concerns from the documentary with an open letter from their Zoological team – but Blackfish was visual, so they have to combat the issues on a visual level too. Therefore, they started a “Voices of SeaWorld” campaign with YouTube videos that teach you more about SeaWorld’s mission, how they care for animals and more.

But it’s not enough.

Blackfish was a documentary, which to everyone screams “TRUTH,” even though it may not be. SeaWorld needs to take the same approach. The videos SeaWorld created in their “Voices of SeaWorld” campaign make great marketing pieces, but they don’t reach me on the same level as Blackfish did – they’re just not as believable. Give me raw behind the scenes videos or invite guests to go behind the scenes in the park to meet trainers and ask them questions – record it and throw it on the internet. Because these videos are so polished, they’re just not reaching viewers on the same level. It may be the exact same content, but delivery can make all the difference.

When it comes to crises, you need to consider the level at which the threat came in. In this case it was a documentary, therefore you must consider what you can do to show your side of the story in an equally believable way.

(I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 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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2 thoughts on “SeaWorld’s Response to Blackfish: Lackluster at Best

  1. I love that you wrote about this — I discussed this with some of my peers a few weeks ago. It surprised us on how long it had taken SeaWorld to post any sort of response; almost seemed as if they were hoping the skepticism would go away (it never does)!

    I also loved hearing of the young girl who took a stance against SeaWorld as well; she protested and everything! Those documentaries are very influential.

    Great post!

    Best,
    S

    • Hi Stephanie,

      I’m glad that everyone’s discussing it (especially the PR side of the issue). I’ve found sometimes people have difficulty separating the issue from the PR discussion (I posted about one instance here), so I’m glad you’ve found some peers who you can do that with. It’s a great learning opportunity for others.

      Even though SeaWorld has responded, I feel like it’s so lost in it all. I still hear about Blackfish, even though it came out months ago, but no one talks about SeaWorld’s response. I haven’t seen the girl who protested the documentary- I’ll have to scope it out.

      Thanks for the comment; I hope you find some useful discussion-starters here. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog too.

      -CatherineCarol

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