PR Connections: Sea World Disaster

Dawn Brancheau, a whale trainer at SeaWorld Adventure Park, poses while performing. Brancheau was killed in an accident with a killer whale at the SeaWorld Shamu Stadium Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Julie Fletcher)

As most of you probably know last Wednesday Veteran Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was killed  by the killer whale Tilikum in front of a horrified audience.

Sea world continued shows the next day, but after making world news coverage because of the incident, the Orlando based attraction quicly saw themselves faced with a PR disaster.

SeaWorld has halted Shamu shows at the Orlando theme park and at sister parks in San Antonio and San Diego while it reviews the death.

In an article written by member of the Associated Press, steps are listed of possible actions Sea World can make in order to counteract this disater. Sea World officials stummbled in the first press conference after the incident saying that Brancheau had drowned and was not killed by one of the wales. They later spoke again, correcting themselves and saying how Brancheau had been drugged down into the water by her ponytail after Tilikum grabbed her.

One interesting point that was brought up in the article was that this incident may in fact help attendance, when it comes to the younger demographic.

Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management, in Louisville, Ky. said that “It’s not going to draw families necessarily or older people who would typically visit there, but there is an age group that gets excited about the risks and the potential for drama and it may attract some of those folks.”

To read the entire AP story click here.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “PR Connections: Sea World Disaster

  1. marielorelei

    I just heard about this the other day, I could barely believe the story when my friend told me about it. There were so many children in the audience and I’m sure they have all been scarred for life due to this incident. I really hope that the children and all other attendants can recover from what they saw. I’m not sure how Sea World will recover from such a horrible tragedy. The idea that people think that this incident might cause an increase in attendance at Sea World is just sad and disgusting. I know that a lot of the younger people in society have been desensitized when it comes to gore, but are we really that much of a jaded society that this would bring interest and not sadness in the young people?

  2. laur22

    I heard about this story, but was not that surprised. It is obviously such a horrible tragedy for the victim’s family and everyone surrounding the event. The trainers are well aware that these whales have the potential and strength to hurt anything in their paths, but the whales that are trained are much calmer. The whale thought it was playing a game with the victim, and was unaware he was causing harm to her. This may sound bad, but I am sure that the people who world for Sea World would much rather die doing something they love than losing their life another way. Much love to the people suffering from this event.

  3. Matt,
    After I heard about this tragedy on the news, I was in shock. It was such a sad story, being that the Sea World worker was just doing her job. This could happen to any of the whale trainers. It just so happened to be a horrible event that can’t be taken back. My sympathy goes out to the family and friends of this victim. I would have to say looking at this situation through a public relations stand point, I think that Sea World is doing a good job of recovery from this event. I am pleased that they have closed down the parks for a few days, and I heard that they will not be allowing trainers in the water with the whales anymore either? I’m not sure if that was a rumor, but if it’s not, I would support the fact that they are taking precautios measures to protect future accidents from occuring.
    -Kati Ann

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