Better PR Will Not Solve SeaWorld’s Problems

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SeaWorld already doubled down on its killer whale captivity model by pledging to invest tens of millions of dollars in bigger tanks. And now it is doubling down on the idea that better PR can defuse growing doubts about using killer whales for entertainment:

SeaWorld is working aggressively on improving its image as it continues to fend off criticism over its whales in captivity.

The company is disputing animal-rights activists online, soliciting fan support and trying to call more attention to its work with animals — such as rescuing underweight orphan manatees.

SeaWorld is making these efforts amid declining attendance and lingering controversy intensified by last year’s anti-captivity “Blackfish” documentary. The company said in an earnings report last week that negative publicity contributed to an overall third-quarter attendance decline.

“I think we’ve just realized we have to do a better job of telling our story, sharing the good work we do,” company spokeswoman Aimee Jeansonne Becka said, reiterating the thoughts expressed by Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison earlier this year.

“You’re going to see a PR offensive coming here,” Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder told CNBC last week. “You’re going to see SeaWorld being more open about who they are, educating people [about] who they are, with other organizations.”

Best of luck. Sometimes the apparent problem is an actual problem, and not just a failure to “tell your story.” SeaWorld, in fact, has done a brilliant job over the past 50 years of telling exactly the story it wants to tell. That’s why many viewers found the story told in Blackfish–which was VERY different–so shocking.

Changing the story to emphasize conservation (especially if it is backed up by real investments in conservation, which would be a nice) might help at the margins. But promoting conservation still does not address the fundamental reality that increasing numbers of people find killer whale circus shows anachronistic and cruel. The only way to address that problem is to change the business model and start transitioning away from the product that fewer and fewer people want to buy.

Despite the brutal beating SeaWorld is taking in the markets, and the steady decline in paying customers, it doesn’t look like SeaWorld is quite there yet.

4 thoughts on “Better PR Will Not Solve SeaWorld’s Problems”

  1. If they spent a bit less time sending truth team emails out asking their fans to post on pages and concentrating all their efforts on PETA, and more time actually educating their fans they wouldn’t lose so much credibility. So far in the last week I have taken on ardent Seaworld fans from stand with seaworld who have said, ‘if it wasn’t for Seaworld orcas would be extinct’ ‘Seaworld orcas live idyllic lives as those in the wild don’t want to hunt ‘ ‘Seaworld rescued all their orcas from parks who couldn’t look after them’ ‘Keiko only lived in Iceland for a few weeks’ ‘they don’t separate mothers from their offspring still’ ‘the people on Blackfish, Ken Balcomb, Naomi Rose, David Duffus etc aren’t scientists they don’t know anything they are ”petanazis” lol, and I rip apart most of the Awesome Ocean posts in minutes as they never post facts or links to anything. They speak volumes for Seaworld lol. These are the people who supposedly visit there regularly and benefit from Seaworld’s education policies. Well if that is what Seaworld teaches them they may as well call it a day now as both the people themselves and Seaworld are looking ridiculous.
    Rescues are very commendable, but a trip on NOAA’s website shows they receive grants the same as the other rescue organisations, big grants too, the rescues ARE NOT paid for by ticket money at all. The rescues are NOT done solely by Seaworld they are part of a network and rescues have absolutely nothing to do with those captive cetaceans, which are the reason people protest.
    They need to shake off some of the old suits at the top who have always thought they were God and get those orcas into a sanctuary ASAP. They have the space and they have the money and say they have the capability, they need to prove it, then those protesting outside would possibly be inside too.

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