No Business Like Zoo Business

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 — Facing a brutal budget cut from cash-strapped Massachusetts, ZOO New England — Franklin Park Zoo and the smaller Stone Zoo — swung from its PR heels and hit what appears to be a PR home run. With the veteran counsel of its Boston-based PR firm, Marlo Marketing, ZOO New England responded to the hovering budget cuts by putting out the word that the Zoo might have to shut down its operations which could result in some of the animals being (here’s the Long Ball) EUTHANIZED!

OMG!  When I saw the newspaper coverage (ZOO NEW ENGLAND ANIMALS COULD BE EUTHANIZED — to closely paraphrase the hook), I could plainly see the storm of public opinion that such a PR “framing” would be certain to generate (those POOR BABY GIRAFFES! THOSE CUTE LITTLE CHIMPS!). And of course it has.

Governor Patrick shot back at the Zoo that no such thing was sure to happen — and that it was unconscionable and unethical for the ZNE to distort the truth like that. And how selfish of the Zoo, when the entire state — including the elderly and poor and others whose state services have been slashed — is feeling the pain of the financial meltdown.

Of course, the governor and his spokespersons’ defensive reactions — no matter how rational — are too little and too late. The first big shot was fired. The PR battle has already been won, it appears, by Zoo New England because it moved swiftly and boldly and found the sweet (or is it bitter?) spot with the image of the heartles murder of defenseless critters. Even the Boston Globe, that LIB-RUL newspaper that conservatives and bean counters and others on the right love to despise, editorialized that Zoo New England had clearly sidestepped the truth and failed to consider very rational management options such as consolidating the functions of the two zoos and seeking donor dollars — not to mention the ME ME ME! selfishness of ZNE’s claim, considering the misery being endured by so many other, less well-funded and PR-savvy constituencies in the Commonwealth.

But, so what? It looks like a done deal in PR  terms.

So when you hear whimpers that “PR is dead!” — don’t believe it. That’s like saying influence is dead. Persuasion is dead. Politics is dead. Pleeeze! T’ain’t so.

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Filed under Crisis Communication, Political Communication, Public Relations

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