That didn’t take long! Emotion 1, Logic 0

Even before I posted yesterday’s story, gunsmith Doug Warren had decided to cancel his relocation plans. Read the details here if you’d like — but do it in the next 7 days, before our local paper moves the story to its pay-per-view archives. (Arrgh!)

Said Warren as he packed it in:

The concerns of the people were unfounded, but they exist and we’re in business. Right now, all the stuff that is going on is a distraction. We need to get back to work.

As I said last night, cases like this one make teaching public relations a lot easier, even if they do make running a legitimate business a lot harder at times. I’m sorry Warren lost this battle, but it sure gives me a great illustration to use in my classes for the next few years.

The Warren case demonstrates how a vocal group of antis can achieve desired outcomes with a quick and highly visible action, even when their argument is 100% emotional. The case also underscores a lesson about issue anticipation. Warren got bushwhacked, and he shoulda seen it coming.

3 Responses to That didn’t take long! Emotion 1, Logic 0

  1. Dino Baskovic says:

    I honestly can’t recall whether this was part of the curriculum back in the day, but…what are some basic points you can give to PR pros when faced with similar crises involving heated, irrational audience behavior? Also, any books and/or other resources you would recommend for further investigation?

  2. Dino,

    I can’t remember back that far, either. Must be something in the beer.

    I do know I’ve been talking about the role of emotion — both in public issues and crisis communicaton — for as long as I’ve been teaching. Back during your time at Kent, one of my most popular class projects was to devise a deer management plan (read: get the public to buy into a controlled kill) for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The need to reduce the deer population is indisputable when you look at it logically or scientifically. But the folks who frequent the CVNP love the deer and most are unaffected by the overpopulation. Unless a deer has sails through their windshield, they don’t perceive a threat. Rather, they see it as the callous slaughter of Bambi.

    The controlled kiss remains a tough sell, evidenced by the fact that it’s 10 years later and the plan at CVNP is still in limbo.

    Another example, from my professional life was when we sought approval to remediate landfills or build transfer stations (for trash consolidation) for a major waste management company. There we encountered NIMBY (not in my backyard) — which is exactly the emotional phenomenon the gunsmith in Wadsworth ran into this week.

    My best and only advice here is to listen closely to your opponents, no matter how nuts you think they are. They believe themselves to be perfectly rational, and as a PR professional you need to treat them that way. Oftentimes their objections (while illogical) are easy to accommodate. For one waste management project in New York, the client installed, at PR’s urging, a $250,000 captive drainage system to placate an environmental group concerned about a risk that didn’t really exist. That’s a lot of dough to deal with “perception,” but it saved surefire 9-12 month delay on regulatory approval, since we knew the DEC in New York is highly sensitive the the “green” NGOs.

    Let me think about that “readings” part of your question. I’ll post a second comment.

  3. Dino Baskovic says:

    Thanks, Bill. I had Zoe for “Principles” and we tackled the reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone. It was a tough sell to park locals, as I recall, though a no-brainer to others.

    Of course, just down my street, the United Way had a dickens of a time opening a day care for mentally challenged adults in a residential district (they eventually won approval). NIMBY was rampant, as the contract caregiver had a history of housing convicted felons and sexual predators. I saw both sides of the issue. The city eventually gave into United Way, though several city council members lost their seats over the issue during midterms. Regardless, perception was the key driver in this case, and you know, perception has a loud voice when it wants.

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