How Several Southern States are Shooting Themselves in the Foot: What this Kind of PR Crisis Means and What to do About It

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Andy-Blum-headshotBy Andrew Blum PR Consultant & Media Trainer, AJB Communications

On the face of it, PR advice not to do anything to upset business or tourism coming into your state or your client’s state would seem pretty straightforward. But we’re in a year when emotions – and not logic – are ruling a lot of governments and even more politics.

Two words – Donald Trump. I’m not saying Trump has caused several southern states to consider new discriminatory legalization. Trump has been blamed for a lot, but on this it’s all on the states. Times have changed in this country so how could you even think of such laws as the one passed by North Carolina and almost enacted in Georgia?

All of this could mean a lot of crisis PR business and state public affairs work for PR people and a lot of long of hours, handwringing and banging your heads against the wall.

I went to college in North Carolina, which I viewed as a fairly moderate state. I’ve also traveled to several southern states and I’ve always found the South somewhat perplexing – it’s had a complicated history with race and politics. One stop forward, two steps back. And now we have this social issue backlash and foot-in-the mouth syndrome here.
When I simply told a PR friend from the South what I thought, he said, “That’s kind of glossing it over, and I think it runs deeper, like masking its morality flaws or political morality in religion.”
He might be right; he’s lived there all his life while I’m sort of a carpetbagger. I do know when you mix all of this together, it’s a recipe for PR disaster, as the threat of boycotts of these states has shown.

Cut all this stuff away, and it comes down to image, brand and economic bottom line. In the social media age, controversy sells – and explodes.

What to Do: Is it a Lost PR Cause?

PR people can strongly advise your state or client not to take up such a law as a matter of decency and smart PR, but in today’s climate you may lose. If you see that other states are threatening to stop doing business with yours due to the pending or signed law, pull out all the stops. But get ready for all-out crisis defense work.

If you do PR for another state, or a business or sports league that does business with an offending state, then prod your client to take advantage of the other’s faux pas. Most smart entities today are erring on the side of rights, nor restricting them.

The political fight over rights isn’t over. Either is the PR battle.

About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. In the political realm, he handled PR for former NY Governor George Pataki for six years. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at ajbcomms@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms 

 

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