The PR fallout can be devastating if you don’t know with whom you’re dealing. Also if you fail to address the issues properly and professionally.
The case of the Miami High School prom and the Caged Tiger is an excellent example.
In case you missed the original story:
First and foremost, the Principal’s reaction/statement to the incident was about as tone deaf as it gets. No apology. No admission they did something that distressed students and teachers. And the attempt to deflect from the issue and direct attention to matters completely unrelated speaks directly to a page taken from certain politicians of our era who often believe people are gullible.
Often, they are. But that is also beside the immediate point.
The school could, and should, have handled the response better. They only dug themselves a deeper hole.
Here’s where that hole now leads. To the company hired by the school to bring in the exotic animals.
They are indeed a licensed facility, but what they do and how they do it has been called into concern by animal abuse activists for more than a decade.
Read this very detailed article from 2016. Ownership here has been making a buck from caged big game animals for quite some time.
The Possmans are not alone. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of these “licensed” companies across America using caged animals for profit. It was just a few years ago that Possman was renting out a tiger for background at a strip club.
Whomever at Christopher Columbus HS that arranged for this show apparently did not do their homework in researching the company they were renting from. Maybe they did, and that would make this decision even more egregious.
Here’s where I go off on a personal tangent for a few moments. Please bear with me.
The State of Florida, and other states thru their various agencies, has to stop the greed and abuse, and shut these places down.
Then the larger issue becomes what happens to the animals? I’ll wager it won’t take long for Possman to sell these animals to someone that will perhaps treat them even worse. Maybe even kill them or dump them. The fact he has these magnificent animals living their lives in tiny cages in a large backyard area is despicable. This isn’t a life. It’s a cage. And by now, I doubt the animals, especially the big cats, would be able to survive in any other setting.
Though I would wager there are zoos, maybe even Zoo Miami, that would take them in or help find them homes.
Possman and his ilk couldn’t give one whit about the animals. This is a business and a profit center. The fact he allows them to be rented out for strip club appearances tells us all we need to know.
It’s not as if the State and other haven’t known about businesses like this. They just don’t care enough about their mission to do the right thing. And the right thing here is to shut these places down, find homes for the animals, and stop this profiteering from creatures that were never meant to live their lives in tiny cages.
Now, back to the PR issue at hand.
Christopher Columbus High School and the founding Marist Brothers need to do some serious damage control .The statement from the Principal by itself is dishwater weak. They also need to address how a very important and upstanding school hired such a suspect company. It shows little preparation and planning. Certainly, a lack of empathy that the Marists are known for.
A good media strategy and public relations would have looked at the event with a very cautious eye. Our firm would have raised some serious questions about the concept, and prepared CCHS for a possible fallout. And we certainly would never have allowed a statement of such hollow concern to be released from the Principal.
This is not a catastrophe by any means. But it is an example of being media and PR prepared for all eventualities, and being cautious of the organizations and individuals you are aligned or doing business with.
In other words, don’t let the tiger bite you in the ass.