The NRA’s Measured Silence

Will an atypical crisis management plan help preserve the organization’s reputation?

In the wake of the tragic killings in Connecticut, there has been a remarkable silence from the National Rifle Association. The typically vocal organization has shut its Facebook page down, ceased updating its Twitter feed and definitely isn’t returning any calls from the media.

Why hasn’t the organization made a comment with the public so obviously waiting? In a Politico article by Anna Palmer, crisis management experts, including Bernstein Crisis Management president Jonathan Bernstein, offered their opinions:

“I’m sure the NRA considers itself in a lose-lose situation regarding communications,” said Jonathan Bernstein, a crisis management expert. “When there is that level of anti-gun outrage, there is literally nothing a pro-gun organization can say in the near term.”

Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist and president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, agreed.

“I’m sure what they would want to say is, ‘We’re so sorry, this is horrible,’ but if they said that it would be viewed as it’s cynical for them to be saying such a thing,” Feldman said.

In today’s world, where rapid response and engagement rule, the NRA’s strategy is rare but, in this case, appropriate. What the NRA has effectively done is avoid a seemingly inevitable war of words between its supporters and opponents, that would have, with the heavy emotions involved, resulted in comments that neither side would truly be proud to associate with. At the same time, the organization has stepped around the many pitfalls that could stem from things like an untimely promotion or an errant Tweet

We would, however, be shocked if the NRA does not have heavy internal crisis management planning going on at this very moment. Such an active and  experienced organization is likely prepared to spring into action should key supporters, like their proponents in Washington, begin to waver.

As we wrote this post, the NRA announced that it will break its five-day silence this coming Friday and released the following well-crafted statement:

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make this this never happens again.”

The subject of gun control is beyond the scope of this blog, but as far as crisis management goes, the NRA’s unorthodox strategy may prove to have been a wise choice.

The BCM Blogging Team

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