A brand new (Sea) World

For the past couple of days, I’ve been discussing SeaWorld’s policy change regarding Orca whales in their theme parks and how PR has been involved in the process.

It all started with a failed PR campaign in March 2015 that ultimately led to, although no one is admitting to, the VP of Communications for SeaWorld resigning in December 2015.

March of 2016, SeaWorld launched another campaign, this one stating that SeaWorld would no longer breed the sea mammals, phase out theatrical shows in the theme parks involving “Shamu”, and create more natural environment showcases for viewing only.

Now that we’ve all had time to let this drastic turn-around in policy for SeaWorld, I’d like to do a SWOT analysis of the SeaWorld’s new PR campaign thus far.


  • CEO of SeaWorld has spoken to regional and national press, as well as social media, giving a clear, consistent message.
  • SeaWorld’s website is current and reflects the change.
  • Social media posts on SeaWorld’s Facebook page have been mostly in favor of SeaWorld’s decision with relatively few in opposition to the message.
  • The new television commercial is consistent with the message.



  • The biggest weakness of the campaign is that it can take years to change public opinion and the change in policy can be seen as a PR stunt.
  • SeaWorld may now have to face another hurdle: those who do not agree with the policy change, who have supported and enjoyed SeaWorld feel betrayed and disappointed.


  • Forming an alliance with the Humane Society of the United States can be seen as a good move upon SeaWorld’s part, and helps to sell the message.
  • Using social media to get the message out about the policy change may appeal to youth and younger generations who have seen Blackfish
  • SeaWorld theme parks and brand may see a growth in revenue that has been steadily declining since Blackfish came out.


  • Other animal activist groups are not convinced of SeaWorld’s integrity. For example, PETA’s website SeaWorld of Hurt is still not on board with any of the policy changes or the message. PETA has also taken to Twitter, condemning the message:

Photo: PETA Twitter, Apr. 01, 2016

  • Now that SeaWorld has reversed its position regarding Orcas, others may call for a reversal in policy regarding other creatures in the park. Capture

Up for discussion

  1. Can you identify other strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and/or threats regarding the recent SeaWorld PR campaign and policy change?
  2. Can you identify shareholders and stakeholders who are affected by the campaign?
  3. Can you identify other organizations or businesses that may see an impact from SeaWorld’s policy reversal?


As usual, all respectful and constructive dialogue is welcome and needed.



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