To: Executive Board, Benevolent Protective Order of Sea Lions
From: Karl Shrum, Strategic Strategies, Inc.
Re: Campaign to improve your standing with the public
Let me begin by thanking you for selecting our firm to prepare and execute your crisis management plan. It’s what we do and it’s what you need.
Taking action is much better than just barking and slapping your flippers (though it is so darn cute when you do that).
The negative press coverage of the capture and relocation of several of your members – as well as the tragic passing of B-198 – show why you need to reconnect with the public. You’re portrayed as overweight mammals who eat too much and then lay around all day. Frankly, you remind most people of their exes.
We have to turn that image around if you want to block the government’s attempt to relocate you or even, ah, how to put this gently, euthanize you.
It is doable, but it won’t be easy or cheap. Here’s why: We asked members of a focus group what words come to mind when they hear “California sea lion.”
Did they say majestic, cute or one of God’s creatures? Sorry, no. The terms that were offered most frequently were fat, lazy, corrupt and oddly, “fish breath.”
You also have an identity problem. According to our opinion research, 41 percent confuse you with walruses, 29 percent confuse you with seals and 21 percent confuse you with, “the guy from Hall and Oates, you know, the one with the moustache.”
Not surprisingly, your approval ratings are abysmal. I’d say they swim with the fishes, but even bottom feeders are more popular than you are.
Let me put it this way: When it comes to popularity, salmon are the Dalai Lama, sea lions are Roger Clemens.
None of this is good news. But we think we can overcome it with a multi-prong campaign using paid media, free media and eelgrass-roots efforts.
Before I start, I need to remind you that you’re paying me to be frank. Sometimes I can sound harsh. But if you want to win you have to hear some vicious truths.
So here’s my action plan:
1. Would it kill you to do a sit-up every now and then? When’s the last time you had a salad? Blame the media, blame popular culture, blame al-Qaida if you want, but obesity isn’t sexy.
We can do a little bit with wardrobe – some darker colors, some vertical stripes. But you need to lose the spare tire. Maybe you can work into it. You know, perhaps take off the feed bag after 70 salmon instead of 80.
2. It’s easier for the government to kill an animal named C-191 than one named “Chuckles.” Don’t believe me? Just ask your past president, Herschel from Ballard. From now on, everyone has a name, and the cuter the better.
3. You need a slogan. We’re field testing “We’re NOT the Walrus (goo goo g’joob),” “Salmon: They’re not just for breakfast anymore,” and “Sea Lions: like ‘The Lion King,’ only wetter.”
4. Since you can’t talk, I’ve hired a celebrity spokesman – Wilford Brimley.
5. You need to get out and show the people that you share their values. We’re working with TV stations to get some coverage of you at a bowling alley, maybe sharing a drink with some steel workers or helping build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
You’ll look great in a tool belt – very rugged, very sea-mammal-of-the-people.
6. I hate to go negative, but it works and you’re desperate. Our opposition research folks can plant some stories on talk radio and sympathetic Web sites suggesting a link between chinook salmon and erectile dysfunction.
We also have evidence that Bert the Salmon’s recent trip through the ocean was funded by Saddam Hussein.
We can talk more at the wake after B-198’s memorial service. I recommend you stick with the veggies.
Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657