One PR Move the Minnesota Dentist Must Make

The Minnesota dentist’s reputation is indelibly marred by this tragedy. Though he has taken initial steps to manage this personal crisis — including issuing a statement denying wrongdoing, cooperating with authorities, and expressing regret and sorrow — it will take considerable time before the dust settles.

Global fervor is at its peak right now. Depending on the outcome of the Zimbabwe authorities’ investigation, the worldwide anger that has already been unleashed may grow. Eventually, however, whatever the final investigative and legal result, the outcry will one day quiet, though the incident won’t be forgotten.

Assuming the Minnesota dentist is being truthful about his role in the hunt – that he believed it was legal, and was relying on his guides to ensure the hunt complied with Zimbabwe law — he now must do this one thing:

He must make amends.

Sadly, making amends won’t bring back the beloved lion or stop the anticipated ripple effect to Cecil’s cubs.

But, even if he was blameless in the incident, Dr. Palmer must take responsibility for his actions, and attempt to repair the hole his arrow left in Zimbabwe Hwange National Park and in the hearts of wildlife lovers everywhere.

His statement of regret is not enough to satisfy the stakeholders of the world. Nor should it be. Most times, “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough. It’s a critical part of making amends, but it must be matched with heartfelt action.

Making amends the right way will involve a thoughtful, strategic plan on his part. Dr. Palmer must be proactive and find a way to give of his time and money to make meaningful reparations. The actions he takes must be significant, dramatic and sincere and carefully timed and communicated with sensitivity. Ideas:

  • Meet with Zimbabwe Hwange National Park and/or wildlife conservation groups;
  • Find out what they need, how he can help;
  • Establish or fund an endowment for wildlife conservation, with a significant monetary gift.

Though no amount of money ever makes up for the loss of this lion, a sizable donation (at least 4x what he paid for the hunting expedition) will demonstrate his understanding of the damage caused.

Dr. Palmer is in a very unique – and very public – position to help prevent situations like this from happening again. It will be up to him to decide if he turns this tragedy into something that ultimately supports conservation and sustainable, legal, and ethical hunting practices.

He is the one person that can bring about the silver lining in this otherwise grim situation.

Making amends is the right thing to do. For Zimbabwe. For the global community. And to make Cecil’s life — and untimely death — one that mattered, and one that changes the world.