Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Power of PR 

It has been interesting to follow the story about two whales -- mother and calf -- that got lost, swam up a river and ended up in my hometown, Sacramento, CA. They are now slowly heading out to sea with a Coast Guard craft in attendance and herding them gently in the right direction. The cost of the whale driving operation is by now tens of thousands of dollars, when one includes personnel and equipment time spent on coaxing the beasts.

It is hard not think that in some parts of the world, including in Alaska, the presence of whales would mean food and their misdirection a fortunate way to get it without going to sea. It was PR campaigns that changed the world's attitude about whales. PR concentrated on the disappearance of the creatures, their magnificence and their importance to humans. PR drove the laws that prohibited whaling and PR is behind such things as whale watching tours.

The change in attitude about whales has occurred in my lifetime -- and I'm not that old yet. It is such an accepted part of cultural thinking that we no longer understand why the Japanese prize whale meat, although we can accept that Alaskan natives need whales for subsistence living.

I've never seen a study on the PR that went into saving whales, but it would make a great case for practitioners to know. Meanwhile, the world continues to get daily reports on the health of the mother and calf and their progress back to the ocean.


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