A couple of days ago, I presented the current public relations turnaround of SeaWorld.

After years of brushing off the press and animal rights advocates concerning the breeding of “Shamu” Orca whales solely for entertainment purposes, SeaWorld has decided to join forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to bring change to the organization.

SeaWorld has committed to:

  • Stop breeding the whales
  • Phase out the “Shamu” shows within the next few years
  • Create whale “encounters” for the public to view the whales in a more “natural” setting, without theatrics.

Logo: SeaWorld Website

From a PR perspective, SeaWorld has changed direction by:

  • Hiring a new VP of communications, after Fred Jacobs resigned from that position after 25 years.
  • Creating a brand new commercial stating their new position.
  • CEO Joel Manby is actively giving interviews to the press talking about the changes at the theme park, SeaWorld’s alliance with HSUS and why SeaWorld has done a complete policy reversal in almost exactly a one-year period of time.

That’s where I left off.  And I took yesterday to try to find two things:

  1. A shareable version of the new television commercial
  2. The reason for the reversal in policy regarding the whales.

I was unsuccessful at finding the commercial to share, but SeaWorld’s website has other videos and information similar to the commercial.

The animal lover in me wanted to find that the reason was noble.  I was hoping to find “It’s the right thing to do for the benefit of the whales” or some version of that statement.

But, the professional me recalled all those lessons about objectivity and transparency drummed into my brain about objectivity and transparency.  If this story was to be credible and accurate, I needed to be objective and SeaWorld needed to be transparent.

In all honesty, I was trying my hardest to be objective, but I was doubtful we’d ever really know the real reason behind SeaWorld’s policy shift.


Boy was I wrong!

They were laying it all on the line in brutal honesty, and from a PR perspective, I have to say it was refreshing and gave me hope in the future of my profession.

In an interview for the San Diego Union Tribune, CEO Manby stated that the reason for the change in policy regarding the whales is all about the bottom line: money. sack-of-money-clipart-nTX6xgnTB.png

Manby is quoted by reporter Lori Weisberg:

 “We understand some customers are upset and you may feel betrayed but in a simple way, the data and trends showed it was either a SeaWorld without whales or a world without SeaWorld,” he said during the webcast. “We are an organization that needs to have cash flow to (succeed) and unfortunately, the trends were not in our favor.

 “I know that’s blunt but that’s the simple fact. We need your support more than ever so that SeaWorld will continue to exist.”
How’s that for transparency?  I can’t say that I was impressed with that reason, but it’s not often that we get such a completely honest answer from large corporations.  SeaWorld should be commended for this PR approach. 
But are they?  
I have no questions for discussion today, but tomorrow we’ll take a look at some ways people and organizations are responding to SeaWorld’s PR campaign, consider how this policy shift may affect other organizations and present some questions to you.
Thanks for following, have a great day and I look forward to meeting you here tomorrow for discussion.

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