Textbooks tend to be dull and dry but I picked up one for my environmental communications class that I didn’t want to put down. “Managing Activism: A Guide to Dealing with Activists and Pressure Groups” by Deegan, offers lots of great insight when it comes to handling activists. A key point is the importance of building up defense mechanisms against activists. Here are some tips.
1. Build Relationships with Key Publics
This includes opinion leaders in your community, media contacts, government officials, the public and anyone with a vested interest in your operation. Two-way communication with these publics is key to help them understand what you do and build a wall of defense against activists.
2. Have a Comprehensive Media Relations Program
Back up your communication with materials like brochures and a Web site. Make it easy for people to connect with you and find out what you do.
3. Have a Well-practiced Crisis Management Plan
Be aware that you work in an industry prone to attack from activists, particularly animal rights advocates. Have a plan for what you’ll do in the case of an emergency. This can be as simple as having key talking points about the beef industry written out, with specific points on issues such as animal rights. Also, know the contact information for local media outlets. In the case of a situation the public needs to be communicated with (such as the Chino packing plant incident or the first case of BSE discovered in the US), you’ll be ready to contact them and communicate your key points.