The NRA should forget their expensive PR firms advising them on strategy and messaging. The gun rifle lobbying group can learn more about crisis communications from high school students. And if you’re a business owner, politician, consultant or just interested in stimulating debate, students from Stoneman Douglas High are providing solid messaging lessons for anyone interested in the gun debate.
On Sunday morning, an NRA spokesman went on ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos and tried to defend the rights for 18 year olds to own assault rifles. Their spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, came prepared with facts and consistent talking points. She deflected the tough questions with a subtlety that most viewers may have missed.
Yet, she continued to make the same classic crisis communications mistakes that the NRA makes following every new school shooting: putting the blame everyone else – rather than acknowledging there is a major crisis brewing with assault rifles.
A student from Stoneman Douglas summarized the entire messaging flaws with the NRA. He said on This Week the gun rifle association is using a tone to distract America. But, unlike previous years when Americans quickly forget the NRA after the school shooting leaves the news cycle, the gun lobby faces a tipping point this time.
Millennials are stereotyped as lazy and apathetic. But as a group, this generation is actually more actively engaged on social media and best positioned to ignite change.
Millennials know how to bring down companies on social media and they know how to organize boycotts. #BoycottNRA is more than just a hashtag and the NRA should be paying close attention to how it develops. It’s already led major companies, like Metlife, Hertz, Avis, First National Bank, to end discounts and deals for NRA members.
The NRA has a reason to fear millennials.
Students following the Columbine school shooting didn’t have social media 19 years ago. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or YouTube to organize boycotts. It’s different today – and that is why new gun laws may actually pass with or without the NRA lobby.
The conversation is changing. The NRA might stick with the same messaging plan from 19 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it will have the same effect from back then. I wrote about the NRA’s flawed messaging plan in 2013 following a different gun shooting – and their approach and plan now is nearly identical.
Today’s students will ultimately make the biggest impact on the gun debate. If this younger generation can continue to organize boycotts beyond Florida and into Washington, D.C., big business will listen to their customers. And once money and customers enter into the financials, you can be assured that new gun laws will be passed by Republicans, even among those with stellar NRA ratings.
We’re already seeing this in Florida where its Republican Governor and Congressman are calling for higher age limits for assault rifle purchases. And when Republicans in swing states start to swing their positions on guns, that is proof a tipping point is underway.
Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS. He now runs his own PR firm in New York where he advises politicians, technology, healthcare and nonprofits.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.