SeaWorld and BP – A Tale of two paid public affairs campaigns
In today’s day of electronic media pushing stories out further than ever before, it is sometimes incumbent upon companies that wish to get their version of a story out to do their own paid public affairs campaigns. While this is not always the answer, there are two recent case studies that show the potential benefits of these sorts of campaigns—SeaWorld and BP. Both were in the midst of public relations nightmares, SeaWorld for its treatment of its animals and BP for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
There was little SeaWorld and BP could do to sway public opinion through earned media—reporters were hammering each company for their practices and activists were blogging non-stop to have these companies change their ways, make proper restitution and, if they had their way, go out of business.
With little recourse in the earned media space, SeaWorld and BP took matters into their own hands, paying for ads to get their messages out. These ads included heartfelt messages from each company urging people to look past what the media was saying and to realize they shouldn’t be vilified.
The most important part of these paid campaigns was that they took responsibility—they did not deny what was going on, but rather looking to the future on how to make it right and learn from the situation. They set the record straight while supporting their positions with facts and faces.
In my estimation these campaigns, while paid, were extremely successful in getting a key message out to the public. And while a paid public affairs campaign isn’t the answer in every situation, these are two examples of the benefit of planning such a campaign.