Tackling Controversy Head On

March 1st, 2010 by | 3 Comments

Photo by Jasmic

Here in sunny Orlando (sorry snowed in world) we have had some extreme events last week that made its way into the top of social media circles. At SeaWorld, the home of Shamu, there was a terrible tragedy that saw the death of a whale trainer at the hands of a killer whale.

The event took place in front of a full crowd at Shamu Stadium inside the water park and tourist destination. As with many stories these days, details broke very quickly on Twitter and spread within minutes of the situation.

SeaWorld is very social media savvy, having one of the most successful social media campaigns in 2009 for their new Manta attraction. This social media program had fans wearing manta ray masks to tattooing Shamu to a sneak preview of the roller coaster by local Orlando social media and blogging professionals.

Even in the face of tragedy SeaWorld has issued statements and kept their fans fully aware of what was happening at the theme park. Shamu even offered a statement on Twitter stating:

On Friday, as of the writing of this post, the official Twitter account of the park, run by Melissa, John and Carl was heavily buzzing and keeping people up to date on press conferences, park activities and other happenings at the park. This really shows a commitment to the people that make up the community at this awesome park.

SeaWorld did not hide or turn their back on their audience, knowing that unfortunately in this age of media and information, even a private situation is very, very public.

Here are some of their Tweets:

What This Means To Your Organization

We wish that no business, large or small has to go through a trajedgy like this one. However, there are lessons to be learned about how SeaWorld was able to handle the situation.

Everything is public business and that stinks. Ask Tiger Woods. People are forming opinions and generally their opinions are not ones that look favorably upon an organization, individual or a service if they are forming that opinion on their own. Information can be shared much more rapidly on social platforms. News no longer has to be typed up, edited and put into a teleprompter to be considered news. All you need to do is send a text message to your legion of online followers and there is a news story. So…

You need to go after these situations head on. SeaWorld addressed the issues, the media and social media in a very quick way for such a large organization. Their social media policies allowed for this. Having that policy in place gives your employees freedom to speak in a timely fashion. SeaWorld jumped to the web and streamed their press conference for all the web to see (and comment on). They showed their community that they cared and they cared enough to involve the community that keeps their lights on and water bills paid.

If you are faced with a situation, you are faced with a decision as to how you are going to present your organization to the media, the public and your fans. You can address them formally, not engaging the audience that pours their heart into your brand (a la Tiger) or you can face the issues and come out stronger.

My thoughts are with the family and the team members at Sea World. I wish you all the strength to continue on the legacy of a great whale trainer.

Greg Rollett is a Rock Star Internet Marketer from Orlando, FL. He blogs about Lifestyle Design and Online Marketing.

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