SeaWorld didn’t wait to fight back against a documentary film released today that claims whales in captivity suffer physical and mental stress because of confinement. The park’s entertainment division pre-emptively sent a rebuttal to 50 movie critics a week before the movie was to premiere. As a crisis communications strategy it’s an aggressive move for a family-friendly brand.
Good move, or a misstep? From CommCore’s perspective as crisis communicators we see both sides.
· SeaWorld may get its side of the story mentioned in the press earlier, and perhaps more prominently
· SeaWorld’s employees – including many well-meaning and respected marine biologists and animal trainers – will be heartened that the corporation came out so strongly in their defense
· Park sponsors may think twice before having an initial negative knee-jerk reaction.
· It may draw more attention to the movie and the claims of cruelty (witness the NY Times coverage, and the flashing “SeaWorld Reacts” button on the movie’s website).
· It may make SeaWorld seem more like an aggressor than a victim.
· It may prompt the movie producers – and other animal rights activists – to step up their criticism of SeaWorld.
We’ll be watching to see how it plays out in coming weeks.