You never really know when negative press may hit your organization and switch your communication efforts to the spin cycle. It can easily hit the best organizations; just consider the disparaging developments at organizations like LiveSTRONG, Central Asia Institute, and Susan G. Komen. Preparing in advance for these speed bumps, can minimize your risk and save you some pretty big headaches.
This issue was recently brought into focus by a friend who posted the following image on Facebook with the comment: "Wow, I had no idea…"
I thought it was pretty incredible and a little shocking, so did my friend, who happens to be a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). That's because, while many may consider PETA a bit extreme on some issues, I think everyone agrees they hold the rights of animals first and foremost. So, my red flag went up on this one and I decided to dig a bit deeper.
The first thing I looked for was a values statement from PETA that might provide some guidance and insight into their organizational foundation. Throughout my search, I learned that PETA has strong and deep-seated position statements that identify their views on just about everything.
"PETA's "Uncompromising Stands on Animal Rights" is an overview of what sets PETA apart. Our positions may be controversial, but they are always true to our driving mission: to stop animal abuse worldwide."
True to form, I found a list of positions on animal rights, including euthanasia:
"Euthanasia is a sad reality caused by people who abandon animals, refuse to sterilize their animals, and patronize pet shops and breeders instead of adopting stray animals or animals from animal shelters." Read the rest of their position here.
So, that pretty much answered my question. At the ready, PETA had provided a reasoned and pragmatic position on an important and unpleasant issue they have thoughtfully considered and then decidedly presented as their stance on the problem. Most importantly, their preemptive strike rendered the aforementioned attack pointless and that is exactly the result you want to achieve.
So, let's briefly take a look at some of the important take-a ways on spin; it's a double-edged sword that can work to present a reasonable alternative, but it can also be used to incite and provoke.
- Remember that even the most innocuous statement can get spun in a different direction than intended. We see this every day on the 24 hour news programs, as they digest, regurgitate, and spin every single statement made by politicians and celebrities into something often unrecognizable from the original.
- You never know who is going to take a pot-shot at your work. The smart organizations are pro-active in their communications. They develop comprehensive values statements, stick to them, clearly think through all their positions, and post them front and center.
- An active PR campaign with a comprehensive media contingency plan, available at the ready, can save you a great deal of heartburn, especially if they are developed in advance to a potential attack or misunderstanding.
- Remember that not everyone's red flag will pop up when they see something that may stray from the truth, popular belief, or reality.
I never found a values statement for PETA, but they probably don't need one, that's because they are true to their values and clear in their vision, which they share widely. Being true to yourself and confident in your beliefs will take you a long way, just don't let them become your little secret. Make sure you let the rest of the world know.