Industry Warned of Activist Threat

"One of the most compelling speakers at the recent Biotechnology Industry Organization conference ... wasn't a researcher or a venture capitalist, but a representative of a special agency with the FBI," Paul Holmes writes for PR Week. Conference attendees were warned that "most of their companies were on a list of more than 1,000 potential corporate targets circulating among activists" and urged "to take a more public stand on the issue." Radical animal rights groups were described as "the country's leading domestic terrorist threat." While industry trade groups like BIO are confronting activists, Holmes writes, they "are often reduced to responding to angry rhetoric and graphic images with dry facts about the benefits of research. To counter the emotional appeal of the activists, the industry needs individuals - both researchers and the patients whose lives they have saved - to tell their equally powerful stories." Corporate activist and PR guru Ross Irvine suggests that PR people have taken the "easy way out" by avoiding confrontations with activists. Ross advises PR folks to take a look at how "activists take a much broader and more complex approach to communicating issues than corporate PR folks. ... It shows what can and needs to be done to if corporate PR folks want to battle activists successfully."