SeaWorld found itself involved in a big crisis management mistake made by the Orlando Business Journal.
This occurred after the outlet reported that one of its polls was being tampered with by the theme park chain.
The outlet had asked its audience a question about a documentary that painted SeaWorld in a negative light, titled Blackfish. The question itself asked visitors whether the documentary changed their perception of the aquatic theme park, and the results that came in were surprising.
That’s because 99% of the voters that participated in the poll responded that the documentary didn’t have an impact on their opinions of the theme park.
Results of Investigation
After the results were finalized, the Orlando Business Journal decided to investigate the poll and shared the results of that investigation with the readers.
According to the investigation, there was a single Internet Protocol Address (IP Address) that contributed over 50% of the total number of votes. More specifically, out of the total 328 votes, 180 were made from a single device.
IP Addresses are a unique digital identifier that’s given to a single, or a series of devices, such as a single smartphone, or a multi-computer network in an office.
The outlet also revealed who was behind the IP Address in question, as they’re registered with the domain name and company, and the responsible party was SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
That meant the aquatic theme park participated in a low form of ballot stuffing to change public perception of it.
However, the situation only ended up furthering the negative image that the theme park already had in the eyes of the public, which was started by the documentary at the time.
Start of Crisis
In the documentary, Blackfish, SeaWorld is portrayed as an irresponsible and uncaring organization that only publicly states that it’s doing the best it can for the animals.
However, this isn’t actually the case, since the documentary details the capture and harassment of orcas inside the theme park.
Those incidents made the captive orcas in SeaWorld very aggressive, as they were stressed throughout their time in the theme park. The entire situation resulted in several different attacks from orcas on their SeaWorld trainers, as well as three deaths.
This hasn’t been the only instance when SeaWorld has found itself in a negative situation in front of the public, as the popular theme park has ignored a number of positive crisis management tips and strategies.
The entire PR crisis stemmed from the Blackfish documentary, and instead of SeaWorld working to mitigate the negative backlash from the public, the theme park sat idly by while the rest of the world talked about what had happened.
Response and Reaction
About two years after the documentary, SeaWorld finally decided to react to the situation by releasing an ad campaign and defending itself against some of the claims that were made against it.
Although the film was never addressed in the aftermath of the documentary, the timing was too late to repair any of the damage that had already been done.
That’s why companies should always have a PR crisis plan long before any crisis situation hаppens. Companies should also communicate with the public with speed and transparency in order to more effectively mitigate any potential negativity.