The new movie “Big Miracle” (opening Friday, February 3) tells the story of a 1988 real-life rescue of three whales trapped by ice in Alaska. The account, which shows the various parties working to save the whales, also shows them working to promote their own PR agendas.
PR pros, PR students and companies looking to gain good will whenever possible would do well to see this movie and take note how each group uses its opportunities. You will also see spectacular whale footage and archival video of network news anchors Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather.
Who are the parties involved in the rescue? The Eskimos who live in the farthest northern portion of Alaska have hunted whales for centuries. They realize, though, when media descend and the story becomes national news, it is in their best interests to help with the rescue (rather than to harvest the trapped whales).
Drew Barrymore plays a Greenpeace activist whose mission to save the whales has parallel side goals: to stop Big Oil from drilling in the area and to limit the Eskimos’ rights to hunt whales. Her passion is relentless, but her ex-boyfriend/news reporter (played by John Krasinski) gives her some media training on getting her message heard by being less strident.
Ted Danson is Big Oil. With a nudge from his wife, he seizes the moment by offering the use of his company’s barge to break the ice and free the whales. His primary motive, though, is to reap a PR bonanza from this action by positioning his company as one that cares about the environment. His ultimate desire is to control as much drilling as possible in Alaska.
Government players are Stephen Root as Alaska’s Governor and Vinessa Shaw as a Reagan White House staffer. Both use the rescue effort to present their administrations as champions of the whales and the environment.
Even the former Soviet Union gains good will by making one of their navy vessels available to chop through the ice and save the whales.
Spoiler Alert! The movie has a (mostly) happy ending. Each of the parties mentioned helps the whales and achieves some of their PR goals.
Events like this one can attract huge media attention overnight. When the opportunity for your organization to contribute to such an effort is presented, jump in. Your help will be appreciated.
If you can also use your good deeds to further an agenda (or simply to generate good will), make your representatives available to media. Provide your staffers with major message points. Make sure the media know what your organization has done. Do good things for the sake of your community and the world, but seek media acknowledgement of your good works. This media coverage will not only enhance your reputation, it may also inspire other organizations to step up and contribute.