With the continuously changing landscape social media has bestowed upon us, companies are now capable – and required – of being more transparent in today’s online world.
This is generally beneficial, allowing companies to humanize themselves to the public; however, for organizations that have been slower to break down barriers with social media, adapt to change and listen to concerns, there can be big implications.
Silence can be loud
One company who has found itself in a struggle with this issue over the past year, is SeaWorld. The 2013 documentary, Blackfish, thrust SeaWorld into the spotlight, and the public jumped on board. While critics questioned SeaWorld’s policies and treatment of animals, gaining momentum with animal rights activists, celebrities, and organizations such as PETA, SeaWorld remained somewhat reactive and a little defensive. Rather than using its social media channels as a way to connect with naysayers and tell their side of the story, the company’s silence seemed to create a barrier. As a result, SeaWorld’s image was tarnished, with stock prices plummeting, and its number of visitors declining.
Rebuild with compassion
Now, embarking on an all-encompassing campaign, SeaWorld is working to humanize and re-connect with the public and bring itself back to its roots as a popular family destination, but the battle is uphill. Many PR experts question if it is even possible for SeaWorld to bounce back. Just last week PR Week published an interesting article, “Why SeaWorld Has to go Beyond Comms in its Fight for Survival” around this very subject.
Swim with the social media tide
While visitor numbers have slightly risen with SeaWorld’s campaign launch, I can’t help but wonder if SeaWorld’s initial resistance to responding to the public’s concerns helped fuel the growing fire? If SeaWorld had made itself more approachable via Twitter and other social media channels from the start, would they be in a different situation?