Whale Watching turns to recurring PR nightmare in Web 2.0 World

Back in November 1970, Oregon’s Highway Division tried to dispose of a 45-foot-long whale carcass by blowing it up using a half-ton of dynamite. Since all area beaches are under the jurisdiction of the state Parks and Recreation Department, responsibility for disposing of the carcass fell upon the Oregon Department of Transportation. Needless to say, the plan went amiss when pieces went soaring through the air toward curious onlookers and created one of the most memorable stories ever reported in area newspapers, radio and television.

Although this would be one incident ODOT would love to have put behind them, the more than 30-year-old story was recently brought back into existence by video of the event flung into cyberspace and appearing on subscriber electronic bulletin boards nationwide. The quick dissemination of information over the Internet triggered an influx of calls to ODOT’s public affairs department from curious reporters in Oregon, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and even from The Wall Street Journal. It was amazing that people were calling about a story that was nearly a half century old.

It’s a challenging juxtaposition for any company to take on, trying to effectively communicate what they do and not just what they say. With the globalization of the Internet and the growing domination of online news over print and broadcast media, these new forms of content delivery are driving infinite possibilities of how public relations professionals can deliver messaging to specific audiences.

We all need to keep in mind that over 57% of Internet users report they watch video online and share what they find with others. Considering that these are not only direct customers and prospects, but also journalists, it is now our job as professionals to stay ahead of these technological innovations by combining social media and public relations. It’s time to join with peers from all age groups in order to improve our communications strategies for tackling these issues and become proactive, rather than reactive to the changes brought about by advances in 21st Century technology.

Looking back years later, Oregon’s “exploding whale” story is now the #5 web video of all time with over 350 million views. Paul Linnman, the 1970’s feature reporter noted, “It might be concluded that should a whale ever be washed ashore in Lane County again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they’ll certainly remember what not to do.”

About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.

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