Public Relations is one of the most important functions in an organization as it provides a link between the company and the outsiders. Indeed, the mode and effectiveness of communication by the company to the external stakeholders may have significant impact on the image of the company either positively or negatively. Indeed, the Sea Shepherd organization, a non-profit making organization involved in marine ecosystem protection knows this better. In its effort to preserve the whales from extinction, the firm has encountered various PR issues that have threatened its economic, social and political image. The PR activities of Sea Shepherd organization and its relations to other marine ecosystem agencies form the bulk of discussion in this paper.
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Sea Shepherd, a non-profit organization, has for a long time been aggressively involved in protecting and conserving the marine ecosystem. The organization has liaised with various like minded stakeholders and governments to enforce laws on conservation of aquatic ecosystem and punishing the violators of these laws. However, a few countries including Japan have continued to indiscriminately kill whales with an excuse of scientific research.
Due to increased sea hunting, Sea Shepherd has embraced Public relations to create awareness to the publics on the importance of conserving marine life. Generally, PR refers to the act of creation of suitable relationships between a company and its major audience including community through communication (Rose, 2004; Anonymous, 1998).
Sea Shepherd organization
Sea Shepherd was formed in 1977 as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). It is an international non profit organization that aims at conserving marine wildlife. Its objective is to halt the obliteration of the marine ecosystems and the killing of the animals living in the world’s oceans (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, N.d). The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society uses creative procedures to carry out investigations, certifification and act by exposing such activities in the oceans and seas. The goal is to preserve these marine animals for the coming generations.
Despite the protest, Japan has continued to hunt for whales claiming it is meant for scientific research but investigations done suggests that the whales are actually being sold for consumption to the Japanese. In 1982, the ICWR banned commercial whaling but exempted those who were doing it for scientific research purposes and since then Japan stopped whaling as a business but it has been doing it under the disguise of scientific research (Japan: Stippy, 2006).
The Public Relations Context under which the Sea Shepherd Operates
The public relations can occur under social, economic or political contexts. In social context, it means that the company goal is to satisfy a social need or provide social amenities to its clients (Culbertson, 1993, 88). In a political context, the company is engaged in the given action so as to protect its political image or to make a political score while in economic context, the company will be engaged in a given activity so as to improve its economic status, for instance, the Research organization in Japan could be operating under an economic public relations context (Rennie, 2010).
Going by the objective of the SSCS which is to halt the obliteration of the marine ecosystems and the killing of the animals living in the world’s oceans for the sake of the coming generations, the organization operates under the social contexts. Sea shepherd is making all the necessary efforts to conserve the whales and their habitat so as to prevent their extinction. Sea Shepherd feels that the whales are very important and that it would also be crucial to have the future offspring have a glimpse of what the whales really look like.
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The Role of Public Relations in Sea Shepherd
Public relations in Sea Shepherd is meant to prevent any negative image that the media may portray about it, for instance, Sea Shepherd has been linked with violence to the whalers. It is also meant to create benevolence among the communities that are served by Sea Shepherd charity work and special projects in order to create awareness and increase the support for its activities. It also helps in finding a solution to the predicaments that the company is facing which may taint the organization’s image. For instance, the organization has been involved in a number of conflicts with another conservation organization, the Greenpeace; this really paints a bad public image of Sea Shepherd since it puts a lot of doubt on legitimacy of the organization’s objectives (Activists disagree on whaling protests, 2008). This is likely to strain the relations between the organization and its major supporters.
The Stakeholders of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The stakeholders in the organization are the conservationists, the general public, the governments in support of fish conservation and the international whaling commission (IWC). Conservationists both registered and volunteers have had great influence in helping Sea Shepherd achieve its goals. For instance, volunteers such as Zoli Teglas and Producer Charles Hambleton collaborated with Sea Shepherd to ensure that the culprits of illegal whaling are exposed; one of such being the Hump restaurant in California which was forced closed after being found to be selling whale meat in contravention of the Federal law that prohibited such trade (Sea Shepherd News, 2010). Other conservationists such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas have actively participated in protecting the extinction of aquatic life by pushing for quotas or total ban on trading in some endangered species.
The role of the government is to impose rules and regulations that are aimed at protecting the aquatic ecosystem and taking legal action through judicial system against the violators of these rules; e.g. the closed Hump restaurant faces a court injunction or punishment. Various governments such as the US, Britain, Australia, France and New Zealand among others have been very supportive on establishing anti-whaling laws to protect the sea life. All these are aimed at serving the interests of the publics who are the direct beneficiaries of the aquatic life.
Various organizations, both governmental and non-profit organizations have been active not only in directly conserving sea life, but also engaging the publics in educational programs to create awareness on the need to protect aquatic animals. Such organizations include the Shark Trust of UK, Australia Marine Conservation Society, ECOCEAN and Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific International among others (Environment, biodiversity and fish stocks, 2010).
The Issue Being Faced
The issue here is that Japan has been involved in whaling for research purposes; an activity that the conservation organizations like Sea Shepherd and other governments feel is not true. They feel that Japan has taken advantage of the IWC decree to allow whaling for scientific research to exploit whales for sales and consumption within the country.
The Publics being involved in the issue
The publics in this case are the governments involved in the ICWR agreement, the general public, the Japanese government – since it has gone against the agreement made by IWCR, the Japanese citizens who are the beneficiaries of the whaling activities and the organizations involved in conservation concerned about the overexploitation of the whales. The most important of these publics are the governments because it is only through them that a real consensus can be reached because they are the ones that can come up with another arrangement to amend the Ioopholes in the ICWR agreement in order to prevent the disguise by various countries.
Public relations refer to the act of administering the communication and relations between an association and the community involved in its activities or affected by its activities. In this issue, the stakeholders could come together in order to charter a favorable way forward for each of them. The activities undertaken by the Sea Shepherd may either enhance or taint the image of the organization depending on how the public relations department communicates to the general public.
Activists disagree on whaling protests. (2008). Activists disagree on whaling protests. Web.
Anonymous. (1998). What is public relations? Web.
Culbertson, H. (1993). Social, political, and economic contexts in public relations: theory and cases. NY, Routledge.
Environment, biodiversity and fish stocks. (2010). Environment, biodiversity and fish stocks. Web.
Japan: Stippy. (2006). Scientific Slaughter- Japan and the Whales. Web.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. (N.d). Sea Shepherd News. 2010. Web.
Sea Shepherd News. (2010). The Hump Closes in Santa Monica. Web.
Rennie, K. (2010). Global Voices. Web.
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