Small businesses emphasize pain caused by shutdown

The businesses near shuttered national parks and historic attractions are successfully painting a picture in the media of the economic toll the partial government shutdown is causing.

WASHINGTON: The businesses near shuttered national parks and historic attractions are successfully painting a picture in the media of the economic toll the partial government shutdown is causing.

“The motel operators, gas station attendants, and restaurant owners around areas like Yellowstone National Park make their living during the summer and fall months,” said Robert Mathias, CEO for North America at Ogilvy Public Relations. “Hearing these stories of how they and their loved ones are affected conveys a sentiment across the country that there needs to be a resolution.”

Many of these stories are coming to light thanks to the efforts of the US Travel Association, which has activated its Travel Coalition, a grassroots group that has been reaching out to Capitol Hill.

Since the shutdown started, more than 300 phone calls have been made to lawmakers' offices. Numerous messages have also been posted through social media channels, garnering hundreds of thousands of impressions, according to Greg Staley, VP of communications at the US Travel Association.

He said the effort is seeing success because “we're collecting real-time stories from the front line.” Staley added that “[we're] getting feedback from the Hill that those messages are meaningful.”

On the political front, many communications experts were hard-pressed to say which party is winning the week in terms of getting their messages out and keeping their reputations in-tact.

On one end, polls indicate that Republicans are inflicting more damage to their reputations than President Barack Obama.

“Republicans are losing the PR battle, and that may be why you're seeing up to 20 Republicans in the House pushing for a clean continuing resolution bill,” said Maria Cardona, former senior adviser to then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) during her presidential campaign and a partner at the Dewey Square Group.

Others say the GOP is succeeding because it has swung the narrative away from being anti-Affordable Care Act to repeatedly noting that the president won't negotiate. This has led to the appearance that “Obama is unwilling to be reasonable in this process,” said Al Jackson, SVP and head of the healthcare practice at O'Neill and Associates.

However, most of the experts who spoke to PRWeek said both sides are failing miserably from a messaging standpoint, and the ultimate victor of the media relations war may be the side that blinks first.

“The voters want to see results, they don't care who is more right, and that's the point,” said Ben Feller, MD at Mercury Public Affairs.

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