Crisis PR in a Social Media World

One of my many pictures of Shamu.

Toyota is dealing with it. Tiger Woods is doing it…badly. How will Sea World and Shamu handle yesterday’s tragedy and public relations crisis?

Facts coming out of Orlando have been conflicting. According to one version, one or more witnesses claim the killer whale pulled the trainer into the water while other versions maintain trainer slipped and drowned in an accident.

Either way this is a terrible tragedy, no doubt about it and I am sure more details will come to light soon.

As the public relations strategy unfolds, here are some observations:

[stextbox id=”alert” float=”true” align=”right” width=”220″ bcolor=”000000″ bgcolor=”d3d3d3″ image=”null”]A fan’s side note: I will say that in my many trips to Sea World Orlando, I only saw Tilikum (the whale in question) performing solo, without trainers riding or interacting with him much at all. Mostly he just swam, jumped and splashed people. FWIW.[/stextbox]

  1. Sea World evacuated the area, cancelled further whale shows.
    • To me this was the right thing to do, safety first for the staff, animals and guests to the park.
  2. A brief statement was given to the press by local police officials and by Sea World president Dan Brown, about two hours after the incident.
    • Letting the officials address the media, even without all the facts is a good way to get in front of the story.
  3. Sea World president and CEO Jim Atchinson posted a message on the Sea World blog, echoing statements read by Dan Brown: “Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees, guests and the animals entrusted to our care. …We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the trainer and will do everything possible to assist them in this difficult time.”
    • I appreciate the effort, promise of more information to follow in a standard, smart PR move.
  4. During all this time however @Shamu tweets nothing. I am very mixed on this.
    • Yes it is the right thing. @Shamu is a funny, family friendly tweeter with lots of jokes, clever puns and cute pictures. Possibly not the right place for this type of disclosure.
    • No it is not. While not the official voice of Sea World, @Shamu is the face of the brand. Perhaps there should be a tweet about “please understand we are dealing with a tragedy.. thoughts and prayers are with..” Especially in light of how many tweets and replies for Sea World and @Shamu, should this Twitter feed be dormant, 24 hours and counting now?

What do you think? When and how should @Shamu start tweeting again?

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