Dealing with Dead Giraffes: Part Two of the Public Relations Issues Surrounding Marius

This is an updated post about the slaughter of Marius the giraffe and how the Copenhagen Zoo managed this event in the eyes of the public.

The conversation surrounding Marius has yet to die down and realizing the repercussions of their actions, the Copenhagen Zoo has gone into clean-up mode. Anyone looking to spruce up their public relations skills can take a lesson on what not to do from the Copenhagen Zoo.

First, let’s take a look at today’s stats. A few short hours after the debacle unfolded, the Copenhagen Zoo was sporting 2,638 one out of five star reviews. Today, a mere twenty four hours since the news hit social media, their count is up to 3,272 one out of five star reviews. Ouch. If this doesn’t demonstrate the power of social media, I don’t know what does. Twitter is still a buzz with a #CopenhagenZoo tag popping up at least once per minute. The petition to remove Bengt Holst from his leading position at the zoo has reached an astonishing 14,288 signatures out of the 15,000 requested. Though, how much power this will have is debatable, seeing as the previous petition to save Marius fell on cold shoulders.

There are many lessons to be learned in this kind of situation. The first, don’t be so ignorant. I’m not going to get into an animal rights debate today (mainly because I feel way too strongly about the situation), but honestly, the death was unnecessary. It was unnecessary from both an animal rights perspective, as well as a business perspective, which is ultimately what a zoo (any zoo) is and not the educational institution that they like to promote themselves as–whoops, there I go with my personal opinions.

From a marketing and public relations perspective, the idea of a slaughter, especially on such a young, adorable animal, was a terrible decision. Feeding a ‘surplus’ animal to other animals in your ‘care.’ See how wrong that sounds?

Throughout this incident, the Copenhagen Zoo has taken the scientific as well as economic perspective on the situation. Not once have they addressed the public’s ethical concerns. Companies are no longer about science and economics. With the invention of social media, companies have to adapt to be social and engaged with their audience. Two traits that the Copenhagen Zoo seems to have completely missed out on.

So, where do we stand? First of all, if you’re going to carry out this kind of business, don’t advertise it to the public and expect them to be okay with it. Don’t advertise it at all! Actually, let’s make sure we don’t get ourselves into any trouble and let’s just not conduct unethical, or questionable business. If it might cause an uproar, don’t risk it. So simple, right? Well, apparently not to the Copenhagen Zoo who carried out the procedure anyway and invited guests! How demoralizing to Marius–again, I’m trying to keep my personal beliefs on animal rights out of this as best as I can.

Now we have a publicized dissection of a young, healthy animal in front of small children who were invited to the event. This should have immediately raised red flags, but the Copenhagen Zoo pursued, finishing the demonstration by slicing off the legs and setting them aside as meat for the zoo’s carnivores.

So now we arrive at today. Social media has been exploding with outrage. The Copenhagen Zoo, ever defensive of their position, failed the age old rule of any business: the customer is always right. All of this could have been avoided had they listened to their audience. They couldn’t have made it anymore clear! They had a petition with thousands of signatures! In a situation like this you know you are going to make all of those people angry. Is it worth it? Was it worth it?

This the post on their Facebook page:

Copenhagen Zoo's Facebook Status

Copenhagen Zoo’s Facebook Status

This is their attempt at cleaning up their mess. No one cares that you don’t consider it animal cruelty. The point is that the overwhelming majority of people on social media consider it animal cruelty. This is the only mention of ethics in this post. The rest is business and scientific justifications. Again, no one cares. When you mess up as a business, it is your job to listen to the public and address their concerns. The Copenhagen Zoo has continuously brushed aside these concerns. We all know that lions eat giraffes in the wild, we aren’t dumb, so don’t treat us like we are. What we’re all concerned about is that you brought this animal into the world and instead of taking responsibility to either prevent its birth or find it a suitable home, you decide to kill it as surplus AND ADVERTISE IT!

The sad truth is, the killing of surplus animals goes on everywhere. The difference is that no one else advertises it and invites guests. Not only is that an invitation for public outcry, it’s demoralizing to the animal and obviously people are going to have their feathers ruffled.

Now, even though I don’t agree with these events, I don’t think that the Copenhagen Zoo should be ostracized or slandered unless we ostracize and slander all zoos, since this senseless slaughter occurs in the majority of them. Hopefully this issue raises awareness and little Marius’ death will emphasize that captivity is not where these animals belong. If you are choosing to boycott this zoo, you should boycott all zoos. The same issues occur behind all closed doors.

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