Something is Rotten in Denmark Zoo


 Something is Rotten in Denmark Zoo

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Copenhagen Zoo.

When does a lion eating a giraffe become global headline news? When a zoo decides to execute a healthy giraffe named Marius with a shotgun blast to the head, dismember him front of a crowd, and  feed his remains to a neighboring lion. Sounds too macabre to be real, but it happened at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark. Apparently, zoo space is at a premium, and this particular giraffe wasn’t rare enough to warrant taking up that space.

The zoo’s decision sparked outrage around the world, garnered more than 30,000 protest signatures on an online petition and prompted adoption offers from other zoos. Despite the outcry, the Copenhagen Zoo went ahead with the killing, opened the autopsy to the public as an “educational opportunity” and allowed photography of the giraffe’s remains being devoured.

The zoo’s tone-deaf response to the public uproar has been even more chilling. Bengt Holst, the zoo’s scientific director, called the protests “totally out of proportion” and noted, “A giraffe is not a pet; it’s not like a dog or cat that becomes part of the family.” Perhaps, but to see one executed by the staff, then fed to another animal, was more than many animal lovers could bear.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Copenhagen Zoo, which demonstrated the business side of zoos in one of the most unsavory ways possible.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Even the most altruistic companies have to worry about the bottom line, but there are right ways to cut costs and wrong ones. It may well be that keeping this animal didn’t attract many grants or visitors. But disposing of it in the face of public fury was simply wrong – no matter how much it could be justified in the board room. A decision might look good in the ledger, but a raft of negative headlines could wind up costing much, much more.

Trouble Afloat for Macy’s

 Trouble Afloat for Macys

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

One of the great traditions of Thanksgiving in America is watching the Macy’s parade. Marching bands play, celebrities perform and a cadre of inflatable balloons delights the nation.

Among the floats this year is one by Sea World – now a target of animal rights activists. A highly-praised documentary, Blackfish, enlightened viewers about the lives of orcas kept in captivity at Sea World. Animals rights group PETA mobilized forces against Sea World, including a protest demanding Macy’s exclude Sea World’s float from its parade.

Macy’s response: “The parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate or other forms of advocacy.” Tried, true, staid – but likely the protests will go on.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be consistent. Macy’s has little choice but to give the pat “We don’t get involved in controversy” statement. If they give in to one group, they’d have to give in to another… But wait they already have! Sponsors of the float for South Dakota balked at singer Joan Jett performing on their parade entry because, as a vegetarian and PETA member, she was unsuitable to represent a cattle ranching state. Macy’s gave in and moved Jett to another float. Macy’s is now on a collision course with new groups who are likely be offended by future. Stay clear and don’t get involved. Placating all parties can ultimately sink an entire parade.

Guest Column: Lady Gaga’s Fur Flap

 Guest Column: Lady Gagas Fur Flap

The PR Verdict: D (PR Problematic) for Lady Gaga.

Last week, Dan Mathews, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) blasted Lady Gaga for prancing around in a fur coat. Gaga had previously been on the record professing,  “I hate fur, and I don’t wear fur,” but recent photos of her in fox and rabbit, and with a wolf carcass, made it appear that she has either changed her mind or lost her memory. Matthews told Gaga via a public letter that by wearing fur, she’s making herself “a target, just like the mindless Kim Kardashian.” The non-leather gloves are off!

Gaga responded with a Tweet instructing those wondering whether her fur was real or faux to “credit the designer HERMES. Thank You!” She then issued a lengthier explanation on her website and simultaneously took a dig at PETA, saying that she doesn’t support “violent, abusive, and childish campaigns.”

“I am choosing not to comment on whether or not the furs I purchase are faux fur-pile or real because I would think it hypercritical [sic] not to acknowledge the python, ostrich, cow hide, leather, lamb, alligator, ‘kermit’ and not to mention meat, that I have already worn,” she said, referencing her infamous meat dress of 2010.

Gaga continued “…I have truly always stayed away from skinned fur, especially [since] I have never been able to afford a nice one, but this does not mean my morals are rigid and that I won’t bend at the sight of an absolute art piece of a coat… But I am truly sorry to fans who are upset by this, its [sic] a fair and applaudable [sic again] feeling about the health and safety of animals. I respect your views, please respect mine. And Kim Kardashian is fabulous,” the megastar added.

The PR Verdict: D (PR Problematic) for Lady Gaga. While a chastising public letter from PETA could be construed as “violent, abusive or childish,” it might also have been possible to turn the other cheek and let the whole issue blow over. The more important lesson for Gaga is to choose allies, such as the intractable PETA, carefully.

The PR Takeaway: Stand by your message or abandon it, but don’t remix it by saying one thing, then sort of retracting it. If you’re against fur, be against fur. If not, fine, but being against some fur and not all is a tad wishy-washy, and former allies like PETA will understandably make a meal of it. On the plus side, communicating via an impassioned blog keeps the connection with fans strong. But one tip: typos and mistakes don’t prove authenticity of authorship. A copy editor won’t dilute the message, however confusing the substance might be.

PETA’s Naked Agenda

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The PR Verdict: “C” for PETA and its promo porn.

Do you care about animals? Do you care about porn? Well then, today is your lucky day!  Animal rights activist group, People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)  has launched a site for you.  The eye-popping website features naked porn stars and vegetarian sex tips, including advice on how to boost your sex drive with vegetables.

The adult-only site, called, was introduced by famously unattractive porn star (and animal lover) Ron Jeremy. “This is the perfect example of sex just being used to draw interest,” he explained, “and then once you’re there on the site, we’re going to hit you with facts that you need to know about the world of animals.”

Justifying the approach, PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajit said, “We live in a 24-hour news cycle world, and we learn the racy things we do are sometimes the most effective way that we can reach particular individuals.” The porn site will raise awareness of veganism, said Rajt. “We really want to grab people’s attention, get them talking… we can help the greatest number of animals by not eating them.”

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for PETA and its promo porn. While it may grab the headlines on day one, it raises potential problems that go beyond splash coverage.

PR Takeaway: Resist the quick hit and the quick headline. Yes, PETA’s website and launch has garnered media attention, but for an organization already known for outrageous PR stunts, this seems desperate. With Ron Jeremy as a key spokesperson, PETA risks being excluded permanently from any serious debate about animal welfare and food sustainability. More importantly, PETA’s supporters may be as opposed to porn on the grounds that it exploits women, as they are opposed to the exploitation of animals. What will Ron Jeremy say then?

To read more click here and here.

Are the Brothers Trump the New Hemingway?

TRUMPHUNTING1 Are the Brothers Trump the New Hemingway?

The PR Verdict: “C” for the Brothers Trump response to PeTA.

Are the sons of Donald Trump following in the steps of Papa Hemmingway as big game hunters? The two brothers are caught up in a fight with PeTA, the animal rights group which seized on photographs of the two brothers vacationing on safari in Africa.

These were not poolside snaps of the brothers drunk on margaritas. The sons of “The Donald” were photographed in numerous poses including standing next to the corpse of a crocodile and in another, standing by a dead elephant while holding its bloody tail.  The brothers seem often to be wearing matching safari wear.

PeTA, the animal rights group, ever vigilant, seized on the photos for PR purposes.  Using it as an occasion to decry hunting and those who love it, PeTA got the media splash it was looking for.  The Trump brothers responded unambiguously that they have always loved hunting and will continue to do so.  From their point of view no apology was needed.  Like father, like son.

The PR Verdict:  “C” for the Brothers Trump and their new found fame as game hunters. Rush Limbaugh taught us that apologies don’t work unless you mean it and with the probability that another safari photo could easily surface, a clarifying statement was the best way to go.

The brothers issued a straightforward statement saying they have always loved hunting and on this occasion took care to observe local rules and practices. Trump Senior side-stepped the issue saying that he supported his sons and their passion for hunting, even if it is not for him personally.  In so doing Trump senior  got himself out of PeTA’s cross hairs and kept his own conservative gun loving base of fans relatively happy.  Smart move for the father while the sons can continue hunting unimpeded.

To read more about this click here and here.

How would you rate the Trump’s handling of this? Would Papa Hemingway be proud?

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