SeaWorld case shows how a crisis takes a bite of revenues


SeaWorld went on the offense earlier this summer against release of a movie that purported to show how the company neglected and abused its orcas and other animals so crucial to its shows.

Company officials sent out a rebuttal of the movie’s main points before the movie aired publicly. Smart move to be proactive, but apparently it did little to quell the crisis. How do we know?

Because 600,000 fewer people went through SeaWorld’s turnstiles for the quarter ended June 30, meaning a 3.4 percent drop in revenue, or $411 million. Overall, attendance is down 6 percent for the first half of 2013. As a result, the company is deep discounting tickets by as much as 46 percent midweek.

The company continues to insist that the movie Blackfish is not a factor in the financial hits it’s taking, blaming instead bad weather, Easter Week’s timing in the calendar year and higher prices the company instituted earlier in the year.

This is not so much a critique of SeaWorld’s sinking fortunes as it is a reminder and documentation of how a crisis will cut in to sales, reduce revenues and damage a company over the long-term if the company does not handle the crisis expertly.

Eric Mower + Associates’ crisis and reputation management team created an infographic that shows how a crisis affects the bottom line, and, how inevitable a crisis is for even the smoothest-running companies.

CrisisCommInfographicSeaWorld’s misfortunes are not particularly surprising — or hard to predict and plan for — for a company that relies on wild animals for revenues. These multiply into a crisis the longer they persist. The company can rationalize that vagaries of calendar and weather can add up to a bad year, but those are annual or semi-annual events. People are more than likely spending their entertainment dollars elsewhere, at least in part due to bad publicity stemming from the movie.

Crises hurt. You need to respond most effectively or the consequences will be long term.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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