The vast majority of public relations pros have something to be thankful for today: That you don’t work for SeaWorld’s crisis communications team. Add “online ballot stuffing” to the laundry list of things they’re dealing with this week. The documentary “Blackfish” has caused a stir, exposing nefarious practices at the aquatic park, including an exposé about whales in captivity and the orca-related death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Several high profile music acts have pulled out of performing at SeaWorld because of the documentary. Now, the Orlando Business Journal is accusing the company of trying to influence an online poll, which asked, “Has CNN’s ‘Blackfish’ documentary changed your perception of SeaWorld?” At one point, 99 percent of voters had answered that the documentary had not, in fact, changed their opinion of the company. Insert your favorite “something’s fishy” pun here. From the Orlando Business Journal:
But imagine our surprise when we noticed that one single Internet Protocol Address (IP Address) accounted for more than 54 percent of the votes, or about 180 of the total 328 votes. IP Addresses are typically unique Internet identifiers given to a computer or series of devices — say a multi-computer network in your office. And who’s the owner of the domain name and company that address belong to? SeaWorld.com and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
At this point, the poll reports that 82 percent say the documentary has changed their perception of SeaWorld, with around 8,000 votes registered.
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A SeaWorld spokesman gave the following statement to CNN:
It’s important to note we have more than 6,000 team members in Orlando, between three parks and our company headquarters. I think anyone would expect that an Orlando publication would be read and responded to by some of those team members. … Our team members have strong feelings about their park and company and we encourage them to make their opinions known. If a poll is posted regarding SeaWorld, our team members have as much a right as anyone else to vote and express their opinion. We’re unsure why that’s being questioned here.
SeaWorld has also denied using an internet “bot” to spam the poll. (Image via)