Turning a threat into an opportunity.Associations with controversial missions have a tendency to remain silent and not call attention to themselves or their issues. However, in my experience at the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), a 501(c)3 nonprofit membership association, was formed in 1950 as a forum for the exchange of information and expertise in the care and use of laboratory animals. , Memphis, I've learned that this approach may not be the best one to take. While not a small-staff association, our experience in crisis management may still provide food for thought for your organization.
AALAS's mission is to advance responsible laboratory animal care and use. More than 4,000 individuals attend the AALAS AALAS American Association for Laboratory Animal Science national meeting each year. And the 2003 meeting was held in Seattle, a city known to be a focal point focal point
See focus. for animal rights activists.
Eighteen months before the meeting, we decided to face the threat of demonstrations head-on and turn it into an opportunity to reach out to members and the public with our message about how humanely animals are cared for in a laboratory setting, as well as the importance of biomedical research Biomedical research (or experimental medicine), in general simply known as medical research, is the basic research or applied research conducted to aid the body of knowledge in the field of medicine. .
Staff and volunteers took several steps to set the stage for a successful, positive meeting.
Developing a public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most strategy. Our media campaign included publishing articles in Seattle newspapers before the meeting, conducting television and radio interviews with association leaders, initiating newspaper and television special reports featuring patients who had benefited from animal research, and developing a video news release with taped segments of gentle animal handling.
Ensuring safety. To ensure the safety of staff and attendees, we worked with representatives from the Seattle police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice charged with investigating all violations of federal laws except those assigned to some other federal agency. , as well as convention center and hotel security personnel.
The board president and I also met with our many committees and affiliate groups to provide information about security procedures, how to behave in the event that the meeting was targeted by demonstrators, and the public outreach efforts that were under way.
Preparing for the press. Before the meeting, the board president and I went through media relations training. Our training covered on-camera presentation, ways to avoid manipulation, and how to provide concise and significant information.
We held a media advisory meeting the week before the conference opened. Reporters from the major television and radio stations as well as the print media attended. The board president, a researcher, a patient (a cancer survivor who was a former animal caregiver), and I were all available for questions and filming.
Once the meeting began, an AALAS staff person was designated as the control point for additional interview arrangements.
About a dozen demonstrators showed up the first day. The number diminished to two by the second day, and only sporadic sporadic /spo·rad·ic/ (spo-rad´ic) occurring singly; widely scattered; not epidemic or endemic.
spo·rad·ic or spo·rad·i·cal
1. Occurring at irregular intervals.
2. demonstrators appeared the rest of the week.
By taking a positive, proactive approach, AALAS turned a serious threat into an opportunity.
--Ann Tourigny Turner, CAE (1) (Computer-Aided Engineering) Software that analyzes designs which have been created in the computer or that have been created elsewhere and entered into the computer. , executive director, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, Memphis (staff size: 29; annual operating budget Noun 1. operating budget - a budget for current expenses as distinct from financial transactions or permanent improvements
budget items, operating cost, operating expense, overhead - the expense of maintaining property (e.g. : $4.5 million); email@example.com