Gun control is on everybody’s mind right now. This hot-button issue recently captured the attention of the United States, driving a wedge between communities from coast to coast. Political pundits, law enforcement officers and activists all push strong opinions on the way firearms should be regulated, and all sides vie for media influence in an attempt to affect public policy.
Considering the deep emotions associated with firearms issues, and the number of people itching to weigh in on the matter, PR strategists in this field currently sit in the midst of a profoundly complex situation.
Here are some of the issues confronting firearms and weapons purveyors right now along with strategies for moving the conversation in the right direction.
Communications specialists in this field must remember that more people now pay attention to their messages than ever before. In the wake of violent acts which continue to grab public attention, PR pros working with firearm dealers should look to crisis-response PR to draft an effective strategy.
One of the key steps in crisis response calls for all parties affected to maintain a low profile. In this situation, rather than attempt to influence public opinion, PR agents reserve commentary until after the national mood has evened out.
When firearms dealers take this route, they set themselves apart from lobbying and interest groups whose members demand the release of official statements or make other moves to re-affirm their agenda after a crisis. This strategy also gives PR specialists and their clients enough time to craft a response which shows the company’s thoughtfulness and sensitivity to its customers and the community.
While the issue of gun ownership continues to divide the nation into varying camps of opinions, few Americans believe there is no place for the sale and ownership of defense tools. In fact, many Americans turn to the Constitution as an expression of unalienable rights.
“Many Americans view the Second Amendment as absolute,” offers Brian Hart from the PR firm Flackable. “On the other hand, random gun violence has long been a tragic staple in urban and now suburban America.” With both of these things in mind, the choice to exercise the right to keep and bear firearms is not at odds with promoting public safety.
In fact, the two go hand in hand: education initiatives about defense tool safety for weapon owners and the general public has long been a part of the public work of gun manufacturers and dealers. Roughly 8,000 members man the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), many of which are gun and ammunition manufacturers and dealers.
The NSSF aims to educate the public about the uses of certain tools, including the identification of specific arms for hunting and shooting sports. This capitalizes on the role of hunting and fishing in United States culture. Communications about weapons need not divide communities further, and presenting the information in an unbiased way may help to ensure it doesn’t.
Now is also the time for firearms manufacturers and dealers to focus on the good work of their businesses. Taking another cue from crisis-response PR, firearms dealers should find good causes to support and give back to the community in creative ways.
Many large scale companies take this initiative even before crisis strikes, by putting employee volunteer programs in place. This provides the opportunity for firearms companies to show ways in which the business actively contributes to their towns and cities.
Professionals in the defense tools business can serve as model citizens by committing themselves to volunteerism and taking an active interest in the well-being of their neighbors and communities at large. In doing so, they can help shift the perception of the industry overall.
Drawing attention to the long-standing cultural legacy of hunting and fishing, along with the well-publicized notion of hunters as conservationists, can also offer an optimistic perspective on firearms that often gets overlooked in cases of misuse.
These professionals and their PR team must keep sensitivity and diplomacy at the forefront right now, as so many struggle to come to terms with recent events. This is a much better approach than taking a more aggressive stance to cause more political upheaval.
With an unwavering focus on the safety and interest of their consumers, effective PR for these groups can encourage productive and peaceful conversations about the role firearms and weapons play in American life. In doing so, manufacturers and purveyors can paint themselves as responsible and ethical businesspeople, with a stake in the wellbeing of communities for years to come