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I'm Kelcey Blanks, a 23-year-old public relations/marketing professional. I'm obsessed with all things social media. My family, friends and pup make my world go 'round. Clothes, jewelry and shoes make me happier than a kid on Christmas. And chances are I'm already planning my next meal in my head. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

The black rhino auction and the involvement of public relations

by Kelcey Blanks

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the Dallas Safari Club selling a rare hunt for a black rhino. The topic of involvement of public relations in the ordeal was brought up in my nonprofit class earlier this week, so I began thinking how a public relations professional could’ve helped the situation.

Dallas Safari Club’s mission statement on its website claims to be all about the conservation of animals, yet the organization wants to help protect hunter’s rights. Any person in the PR industry can clearly see that the two are completely conflicting with each other.

Along with the obvious conflicting ideas, the DSC announces in a press release that they will be auctioning off a black rhino hunt at their convention that will in fact preserve the species. If you’re like me, you probably sat in utter disbelief while reading the press release. I’m sure the DSC was not expecting this press release to be read by anyone without a stake in the organization, but it went viral fast.

As someone learning about PR, this taught me a pretty big lesson. First of all, I am not aware if a PR professional was involved in creating the DSC mission statement, but it certainly did not seem like it. A mission statement is everything your organization stands for. It could’ve been worded and shaped better to create a sense of what the DSC is really about.

Second of all, the way this press release and the dozens of press releases after it were handled was embarrassing. If the organization you represent is about to auction off a black rhino hunt, you might expect some backlash. Therefore, it could’ve been better handled by creating a press release about the event and creating a separate backgrounder or position paper about the facts of the black rhino that many people may not be aware of. Instead of creating these dozens of press releases about what was said in the news about the DCS, they should have responded directly to the source to help get their side of the event across.

Since the beginning of the press release, the DSC has received numerous amounts of death threats. People around the world feel really strongly about preserving the 5,000 black rhinos that are still in existence and not sacrificing one for the greater good. The black rhino hunt was auctioned off at the event for $350,000, which was not as much as expected.

If the Dallas Safari Club’s goal was to gain publicity for the organization, they certainly achieved that. The black rhino auction was even joked about on an episode of the Colbert Report

If the goal was to gain support in preserving a species, I think the DSC has a long way to go and a lot of edges to smooth over. From here on out I think they should focus on reminding people why they are a nonprofit organization in the first place. Hopefully this has taught the DSC and other nonprofits what not to do.

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