Gini Dietrich

In the Trenches with Crisis Comms: Out of Respect for Guns

By: Gini Dietrich | March 8, 2018 | 
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In the Trenches with Crisis CommunicationsThough Social Media Marketing World is over, I have so many more crisis communications case studies to share with you!

We’ve already covered Crock-Pot and “This Is Us,” a university student exposing patients to HIV and HepC, and the tormenting and harassment of the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook.

This next one I have to admit was a little hard for me at first.

MGV is a shooting range in Las Vegas—and they do allow assault rifle shooting.

So as you can imagine, the first I heard of this crisis communications case study, I was less than excited.

But, if you’re like me and gun control is hot topic for you, I ask you to put that aside for a minute and read this case study closely.

Because, while you may not agree with how MGV makes money, the way they handled the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October was stellar.

A Vegas Shooting Range Closes After Massacre

Last October, during the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire on the crowd of concertgoers, leaving 58 people murdered and 851 injured.

While this did not happen at the MGV location, nor were they liable for any part of the massacre, they handled it like a full-blown crisis.

Shutting down the business for two days, out of respect for those killed, their families, and the injured, they took a leadership position for their city—and for the 2nd Amendment.

They refunded the deposits for anyone who had scheduled shooting time during those two days—and employees were paid in full.

They also donated a portion of their proceeds following the closure.

In light of the recent tragedy, MGV feels it’s inappropriate to be open today (10/2) and tomorrow (10/3) out of respect for our employees, the injured, lives lost and the families affected by this senseless act. MGV has refunded all customers who have made reservations on 10/2/17 & 10/3/17. MGV’s parent company, The Compound LLC has also made a private donation to Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak’s Las Vegas Victim’s Fund GoFundMe Campaign in an effort to assist those in need.

A portion of proceeds following our closure over the next few days will benefit The Las Vegas operations of United Blood Services, a Blood Systems blood center, which provided blood and blood products to area hospitals treating victims of the Oct. 1 concert shooting. United Blood Services continues to assess the needs and stands ready to support hospitals with ongoing blood product needs.

Sometimes Leadership Comes at a Cost

The MGV audience is mostly tourists because most people in other countries do not have access to firearms.

Because Vegas is a popular vacation destination, tourists visit the city from around the globe—and MGV to shoot.

After they refunded deposits and closed the business for two days, they also took a stance on the 2nd Amendment.

They had this to say:

MGV absolutely supports the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms, and we believe that responsible gun ownership is attainable through the application of common sense, more stringent vetting and continued background checks, dramatically increased mandatory sentencing for criminal firearm offenses and increased testing standards for gun owners.

But, as MGV took this leadership position following the massacre, the 2nd Amendment supporters went after them—most from the U.S. and not MGV customers.

They posted negative (and death threat) Yelp! reviews though they’d never been to MGV.

The crisis communications team worked day and night for nearly a month to have those removed.

They had to explain the situation and provide a database record of names (to prove those posting negative reviews weren’t customers).

It was a constant back and forth with Yelp! and with Google to have those reviews removed.

On the other hand, the MGV customers supported their stance and applauded their leadership.

Since then, the shooting range has consistently received comments from customers who go out of their way to thank them for the way they stood up for their city and donated to the cause.

In the long-run, MGV didn’t lose any business, but they certainly had created a crisis for themselves by stepping up and taking a stance.

Crisis Communications at its Best

This is because they handled all communication appropriately.

The statement they issued included empathy, they addressed the facts, and they spoke up for the 2nd Amendment while also calling for more stringent control:

On behalf of MGV, we are deeply saddened for the victims and families affected by Sunday night’s activities and absolutely sickened by the behavior of the individual who committed a sheer act of violence on our community.

We realize there will be many sensitivities to firearms and their misuse, and we would like to address a few points as a business that offers firearms experiences in a safe, controlled environment in Las Vegas. We believe, as we always have, that there should absolutely be more stringent control on the types of firearms private individuals can own and the processes they must go through in order to own those firearms.

There were many factors contributing to this tragic event, but there is no doubt that the shooter’s ability to inflict so many casualties was heavily due to the types of weapons he had access to. MGV agrees that the NRA, Federal Government and individual states have a responsibility to continue to maximize efforts to keep these firearms out of the hands of the wrong people.

They were consistent in their messaging—and the MGV owner remained steadfast in every conversation–with media, customers, and even the kooks.

It also speaks to his leadership and his common sense approach to a hotly debated topic in defense of his city.

The crisis communications team told me they fielded media inquiries nearly 24/7 for a week.

And 40 media outlets used their statement in follow-up stories about the October 1 massacre.

Don’t Be Afraid to Do the Right Thing

This is not an easy thing to do.

It would have been just fine had MGV not said a word—and stayed open for business as usual.

But as one of the most popular tourist attractions for gun shooting in Las Vegas, they knew there would be questions from their customers.

And their city was broken. Someone needed to stand up—and they did.

When I asked their crisis communications team what lessons they would provide to other communicators, they said:

Don’t be afraid to do the right thing, even if you’re scared of losing business.

And there you have it.

Don’t be afraid to do the right thing.

It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten that and the Golden Rule in today’s world.

Do the right thing and stand up for what you believe in.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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