Using fear to draw an emotional response is a well-worn tactic. That’s what the NRA did in the wake of Sandy Hook. It moved the national conversation from tougher gun control laws to arming every school in America. “We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards,” exclaimed NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LePierre in last week’s press conference. “American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security. We care about the president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents…Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it.”
My friend and mentor Bert Cunningham posted a comment to Public Relations Nation, framing the PR aspects: “With Sandy Hook victims still being buried, the NRA responded to the Sandy Hook killings saying: to stop gun slaughter in schools, more guns are needed. To those who are not gun advocates, it sounded arrogant and insane…But PR pros and students need to visit http://www.NRA.org and read (yesterday’s) complete press statement and related postings.
“There’s a Mein Kampf-like logic to the NRA’s message,” Bert continued. “It not only speaks to its members, their bread and butter, it also speaks to those less emotional about Sandy Hook or informed about gun violence in general. And that’s how they plan to speak past renewed calls for greater control of guns and gun use in America. With the NRA’s aggressive ‘our way is the best way to protect you’ PR strategy now clear, the question is: How will those who seek change advance PR messaging and solutions in a sustained way to overcome it?”
The NRA might have opted for a toned-down response and asked for a seat at Vice President Biden’s table as he leads the president’s new task force on gun control. Instead, the NRA’s vividly emotional approach cleverly moved the conversation. Bert and I, and our colleagues and students, will be watching how gun control advocates work to move it back. Your thoughts?