Hershey Park & ZooAmerica – Social media done right

Last week the remains of Hurricane Irene pushed out and Tropical Storm Lee camped over Central Pennsylvania (#cenpaflood).  As a result, many homes, businesses, and roads were damaged.  Among those hit hardest is Hershey Park and their zoo attraction, ZooAmerica.  Too often I see examples of what not to do in social media, but in this storm, I found one of the best examples of what to do.

The ground was already soggy from the many inches of rain earlier that week, and as Lee moved in Hershey experienced a flash flood.  Often warnings for these are posted, but rarely do people see this actually happen to this degree.

ZooAmerica enacted the animal evacuation policy.  As the animals were being gathered and relocated, the unthinkable happened.  Two bison were caught in the flash flood.  Within minutes, the water levels rose from inches to feet.  By this time, the waters were higher than height of the staff, and sadly one of the bison drowned.  The staff opted to euthanize the second rather than subject it to drowning as well.  Obviously the community was shocked and dismayed at the choice.  Many people posted quickly to the Hershey Park fan page about the outrage for not relocating the bison sooner.  Again, we’re reminded that the evacuations were nearly complete by this point, and this was a flash flood.

What struck me though as a great practice in social media use was how the staff at Hershey continued engaging their community.  Not only with a thorough explanation of what led to the choices, but also ongoing updates about the entire facility.  Rather than lashing back at outraged fans, they shared professionally and with clear sadness over the situation.

Hershey Park & ZooAmerica respond to flooding

 

 

In the days that followed, ongoing updates about the well-being of the animals and the status of the park reopening were shared.

It is a breath of fresh air to compliment how social media was used.  Hershey did a numer of things right, but here are the ones that stood out most to me:

  1. Proactively shared what was happening
  2. Responded appropriately with fans
  3. Shared the progress of flood clean-up
  4. Reassured the public of park safety and animals readjusting once returned
It does seem that this was a very difficult and sad situation to endure, but the outcome reflects the family atmosphere that Milton Hershey would be proud of. It looks as though the park will reopen for all special events, and once all rides are ensured safe again the public will be allowed in.
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