Oregon Coast Aquarium Case Study


In 1997, the Free Willy/Keiko Foundation, owner of the whale that starred in the movie "Free Willy," staged a hostile takeover that threatened the stability and reputation of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. After months of working unsuccessfully to resolve the matter behind the scenes, Dan helped the Aquarium launch an aggressive public relations campaign to convince the public that Keiko's health was being endangered while also enhancing the Aquarium's reputation as a responsible and caring caretaker.


Dan and his team developed a plan to call for an independent evaluation of Keiko's health, rally third parties to endorse the proposal and simultaneously communicate the Aquarium's vision for a future beyond Keiko.


The program resulted in an independent evaluation of Keiko's health, increased public awareness of other Aquarium exhibits and a higher bond rating for a $14 million expansion of the facility. The effort was awarded the 1999 PRSA Silver Anvil for crisis communications and the 1999 Creativity in Public Relations Award for issues management.