The measure of a crisis is whether you can resume business as usual, or, rather, whether helter-skelter prevails and you can’t get a breath.
Two recent developments show the National Rifle Association is still in the thick of a crisis tied to the Newtown school shootings in December.
First, it’s spending six figures — not that it can’t afford the sponsorship — to back an upcoming NASCAR race in Texas.
This is called firming up your base, or maybe communicating effectively internally. There are more similarities between the NRA and NASCAR than their sharing the N, R and A. As ESPN reported, and thanks to EMA colleague Chuck Beeler for checkered-flagging this:
“The NRA 500 is the latest announcement in the long history of a growing partnership between the NRA, Speedway Motorsports and the NASCAR community,” NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre said Monday. “NRA members and NASCAR fans love their country and everything that is good and right about America. We salute our flag … volunteer in our churches and communities … cherish our families … and we love racing! On April 13, we’ll all come together at Texas Motor Speedway.”
Country, what’s right about America, flag, church, family and … car racing. That’s renewing ties to your base. LaPierre, one of the most successful lobbyists in modern American history, must be very worried and feeling he’s losing his grip on key supporters. Surely there has been much media attention from mothers and fathers who say they’ve shot and hunted for decades, but see a lot of merit in at least parts of federal gun-control laws.
The NRA has always been an all or nothing group. Its strategy has always been to never give opponents an inch for fear they’d take a mile. Even now the rhetoric about gun control prompted hundreds of thousands of people to rush to buy guns and ammo that theoretically could face future limits.
The U.S. Senate announced bi-partisan agreement on a bill to limit gun trafficking. While that doesn’t mean the Republican-controlled House will support it, the measure progressed. And when senators like Kirsten Gillibrand get behind laws like this, the NRA starts working the worry beads. While liberal on some issues, Gillibrand is an upstate New York Democrat who works hard for farmers, economic development and is hardly a gun-control zealot.
“In New York, nine out of 10 guns used in crimes are criminally trafficked, illegal weapons,” said Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who has been proposing federal gun-trafficking legislation since 2009, her first year in the Senate. “This bill is the best tool to begin to crack down on that.”
This is the NRA’s worst nightmare because it shows consensus, and the NRA’s aim is always on dividing and conquering. For the NRA, the crisis continues, which is why it’s trying to shore up its base.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.