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Published on April 13, 2020, at 4: 40 p.m.
by Jordan Axel.

COVID-19, widely known as coronavirus, updates are dominating social media feeds, dinner conversations and Zoom meetings — making it difficult to escape the fear and unknown. However, if you have been on the internet at all in the past week, there is no denying the second most popular topic of discussion.

Two words: Tiger King.

Netflix’s newest phenomenon, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” reached No. 1 in the U.S. just days after its March 20 release date. With Americans quarantined at home, Netflix could not have picked a more perfect time to drop this series.

Courtesy of Netflix

The binge-worthy, seven-part documentary covers the life and rivalry of big cat owners Joe Exotic, who describes himself as “the gay, gun-carrying, redneck with a mullet,” and Carole Baskin. Just when you think you have the characters and plot figured out, everything takes a turn.

Joe Exotic has a wild and out-of-the-ordinary way of conducting business at his zoo, but there are a few PR lessons brands and businesses can learn from the “Tiger King.” Game Day Communications compiled a list of takeaways from Joe Exotic, but two especially stuck out — please note it was difficult to type these quotes with a straight face.

“Be authentic: Don’t be afraid to show your mullet.”

As a brand, it is absolutely crucial to be trustworthy and credible. This is not new nor profound, but the “Tiger King” takes it a step further: “Don’t be afraid to show your mullet.” While being true and authentic to your brand, dare to be different and unique.

“Have a crisis plan: While it’s good to own your mistakes, you’ll still want to have a plan in place before you bound into a gift shop and announce that a colleague has experienced an accidental dismemberment.”

If you have seen the documentary, you cannot forget the iconic scene where Joe Exotic does just that.

Here is what Joe Exotic said to customers at the gift shop: “Ladies and gentlemen, before you hear it on the news, I’m gonna tell you. About an hour ago we had an incident where one of the employees stuck their arm through the cage and a tiger tore her arm off.” He casually went on to offer refunds and rain-checks to come back to the zoo at another time.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Working with big cats every day warrants concern and a certain level of expectation for an incident to occur. There should have been a plan in place that assures customers that their safety and the safety of those working at the zoo are of the utmost importance, even in the face of a tragic incident. After watching the scene and Joe Exotic’s candid announcement, it appeared that the zoo owner was mainly worried about financially recovering from this incident — not a good look.

It is easy to focus on the uncertain and unprecedented times ahead and feel disconnected while practicing social distancing. If you are in need of a laugh, new conspiracy theory or you feel left out of the conversation and memes taking over the internet, gather your quarantine crew and watch “Tiger King” on Netflix.

Thank you, Netflix and Joe Exotic, for the “exotic” PR tips that may save your business from a cat-has-trophy, and delivering the entertainment we didn’t know we needed.

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