Reputation Management and Crisis Communications

AFRICAN SAFARI WILDLIFE PARK

SHOWCASE
African Safari Wildlife Park 1

WILDLIFE PARK REPUTATION SAFE AFTER DEADLY FIRE

On Thanksgiving 2019, the holiday-shift keepers working at African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio, discovered a fire in one of the park’s animal barns shortly after 6:20 p.m., shortly after the property lost power due to high winds. Flames engulfed the barn so quickly that 10 exotic animals inside – including three giraffe – perished. Park owner Holly Hunt learned about crisis communication two weeks earlier during a workshop at the National Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) conference. She called the workshop presenter from Public Communications Inc. (PCI) for help in managing communications and for guiding the park’s post-crisis, reputation recovery plan.

KEY PROGRAM ACTIVITIES
Prepared written statement for Holly Hunt to read on camera for that night’s news coverage
Established as social media strategy and developed content to inform, engage and assure audiences
Developed communication strategies and gathered and shared accurate and timely information for media at the scene on Thanksgiving night
Created and distributed a media alert about the fire and providing contact information for follow up
Developed messages and talking points that continued to evolve as the fire story moved from crisis to post-crisis recovery and reputation management
RESULTS
100% of the media coverage of the fire included the wildlife park’s messaging
Strategic crisis communications strengthened the park’s relationship with its publics
On-line public sentiment regained a positive and neutral level after a brief dip when park critics launched a social media attack the morning after the fire
The park experienced stronger year-over-year membership sales prior to opening
The team also implemented proactive post-crisis strategies to strategically address sensitive issues
KEEP IN TOUCH
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