Score one for Obama’s PR team.
Alongside the national debate on gun control is a public relations war being waged on both sides. I’ve written that while the National Rifle Association’s messaging appeals to its base, the organization risks losing support among the less radical gun rights supporters. Proponents of new gun control laws have used parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims in their efforts, as did President Obama. For the first time in his presidency, he turned over his weekly address to Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was one of the 20 children killed in Newtown, Connecticut last December.
According to the Washington Post, “Wheeler’s remarks are a heart-wrenching capstone to a week of intense lobbying in Washington by parents of children slaughtered at Sandy Hook… After Obama issued a forceful call for swift action during a campaign-style rally in Connecticut on Monday, he brought about a dozen Sandy Hook parents with him to Washington aboard Air Force One. The parents spent the week meeting personally with senators to lobby them to support stricter gun laws…”
We know how essential the right spokesperson can be when endeavoring to influence opinion. For example, BP CEO Tony (“I’d like my life back“) Heyward handled things poorly during the Gulf oil spill crisis, and questions of “good spokesmanship” were raised when CEO Greg Creed defended Taco Bell’s recipe in 2011. But no matter which side of the gun issue you’re on, I don’t think you can find a more powerful spokesperson than the mother of a murdered child.
If you’re alarmed that these people are being used, don’t be. They have become willing representatives of the 100,000 Americans murdered or injured each year by guns. Gun control proponents are very smart to appropriately use their most powerful public relations weapon–in this case, the Sandy Hook parents–if they’re going to have any chance of seeing changes in the nation’s gun laws.
The right representative is essential when working to shape opinions. Francine Wheeler was, indeed, an emotional spokesperson–and the right one for this cause. Your thoughts?