When Crisis PR Is Not Appropriate

Warning: this blog piece contains my opinions. It might even be a rant. I don’t do this as a rule. 

Sometimes you just have to let people be who they are.  That’s how I felt this morning when I read the Huffington Post piece on the Westboro Baptist Church. Even though I personally think they are far away from my idea of what a church should be, it doesn’t matter. They don’t want or need my support.

They are protesting again, but this time it’s the NBA. The church is mad about Jason Collins so they are countering with a threat to stage protests at NBA playoff venues. I won’t comment on the effectiveness of their choices. None of my beeswax.

I know they have to make a stand for what they believe in, and I’m not saying they should not. If I say that, I have to deny the rights of all those who showed public support for Jason Collins—like former President Clinton and President Obama. Or, I have to deny the right of Robert Griffin III and other athletes and sports broadcasters who express their faith publicly. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. If one can say what they want, shouldn’t everyone get afforded the same polite opportunity regardless of how controversial their views are?

I digress–sorry. When it comes to matters of public controversy, crisis management has a conundrum. When Chick-Fil-A stands for their views, and Ben and Jerry’s stands for theirs, both will lose customers. But they’ve made a strategic decision that their political views are more important than pleasing the masses. So, as a crisis manager, I heave a sigh and step back. You can please some of the people some of the time…

One thing I will say for Chick-Fil-A: even though their views are divisive, they’ve done an excellent job of expressing them in a way that makes them genuine. Now mind you, genuine doesn’t necessarily mean non-controversial. No amount of crisis communications, spinning, or messaging can make the subject less divisive. But good PR professionals can find the ground that brings stability and makes the real message clear. That is our crisis PR challenge in a world filled with diversity but hampered by intolerance.