Eric Dezenhall and Nick Nichols, founders of crises management company Nichols-Dezenhall, have a message for companies faced with attacks by animal rights extremists: stop feeding the activists.
Dezenhall, who served in the White House Office of Communications during the Reagan presidency, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Post on the folly of attempting to appease activists. Dezenhall notes that in August 2000, McDonald’s tried to appease People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals by agreeing to change the process by which it buys eggs from farmers. PETA went away for awhile, but not very long. Now it is threatening to start its anti-McDonald’s campaign again if McDonald’s doesn’t make changes to the way its suppliers treat pigs, chickens and cows. Dezenhall wrote,
Too many corporations are heeding the advice of public relations capitulation counselors and are going to extraordinary lengths to please attackers who do not want to be pleased. In the end, appeasement usually fails to stop attacks. It simply encourages new ones.
Nichols echoed this sentiment in a speech to pork producers. Nichols emphasized that farmers and corporations who come under attack from animal activists need to stop treating the attacks as public relations disasters which require immediate damage control and treat them as crises which “require crisis management.”
As Feedstuffs described Nichols speech,
Acivitsts and Luddites get notoriety [for their attacks on companies], which leads to contributions and funding, and get to push their agenda, he said; reporters get to write about controversy, lawyers get clients and contingency fees, legislators get to legislate and regulators get to regulate.
“And you get destroyed,” he said.
Nichols solution — don’t feed the activists. “To survive in any situation,” Nichols said, “don’t look like food. …you start to look like food when you don’t fight back but engage in appeasement and let the vindicators divide [and industry.]”
Nichols recommends giving the activists a dose of their own medicine including “protests against the protestors.” Dezenhall echoed this in his op-ed piece writing, “Without exception, corporations must obey the law and never engage in the illegal tactics of some of their attackers. But there is no reason for corporations to fear a good counterattack if they tell the truth and use legal means. In fact, corporations perform a public service when they make people aware that attackers are advocating costly, unrealistic and harmful positions.”
Appeasing extremists brings no peace. Eric Dezenhall, NYPost.Com, March 30, 2001.
Agriculture told to fight on activists’ ground using ‘attack technologies’ or face destruction. Rod Smith, Feedstuffs, March 26, 2001.