Friday, July 11, 2008

Issue Management: Timing is Everything

So across the nation now cities and states are wrestling with that most insidious of dominant narratives: DANGER!

Every July 5th the makers of what is a – mostly – legal product are forced to defend their businesses and their livelihoods against more than just safety shrills. They have to take on the Danger Narrative itself.

It begins each June when the duly appointed watchdogs of the public safety release their new video. Seriously, how many brainstorming sessions do they go through to generate just the right horror scenario each spring? Would anybody really notice if they used, say, the video from 2003?

There’s generally the requisite fire or Darwin Award nominee who blows up the neighborhood while trying to combine fireworks charges with a heat gun.

I am not making that up.

The American Pyrotechnics Association does its best to get out in front of the story. Not only do they promote safe-use messaging, they have the numbers to back up the relative safety of consumer fireworks. Alas it’s more than a nasty danger narrative they’re up against.

It’s timing.

The mid-summer news hole not only leaves plenty of room for the danger squad to pour on the scary anecdotes, it’s a time when festivals, parades chili cook-offs and the like put elected officials into close proximity to their only know natural predator: the hacked-off constituent.

So ask yourself: If you pick a person at random on the average suburban sidewalk, is more likely that they shot off some bottle rockets for the kids just after dark on the Fourth? Or is more likely they were irritated this week by the flotsam of a neighbor’s private fireworks display while cutting the grass?

Just sayin' ...

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