When Klingons or other enemies threatened the Enterprise, Captain Kirk had a good solution. He gave the “shields up” order and Enterprise and her crew were protected. If only life were like Star Trek.

If an enemy emerged that was bent on disrupting your event, embarrassing your executives, or otherwise damaging your reputation, what would you do? Panic? React defensively? Wet your pants?

From a strategic public relations perspective, it would be wise to engage them in a reasonable conversation and ask them to consider your point of view. You could agree to respectfully disagree and propose to civilly air out your differences.

Unfortunately, that approach is futile if the opposition is bent on creating a media opportunity to make their point. A determined group of true believers does not really care about facts or discussion or respect. They just want a big splash and they get excited seeing it all on YouTube. They don’t care about understanding, they need noise and chaos to survive.

So what can you do if confronted by such a group? How can you manage the situation and minimize the damage to your reputation? These five steps should help.

Love is all you need.
Sometimes a smile goes a long way. It can diffuse an angry situation and make it harder for the opponent to hate you. Of course, it is hard to smile at someone who is spitting in your face but it is always good to treat people with respect even if they are obnoxious.

Tell it like it is.
The opposition already has its mind made up, but people seeing the news reports or videos may not. Make sure that your side of the story is getting through.  Use traditional media, social media and blogs to deliver positive messages about the important work you do. Give people the opportunity to give you the benefit of the doubt.

See me. Touch me.
Be transparent. People become suspicious of your motives when they think you have something to hide. Be open about your organization, your mission, your work and your positions. You don’t have to give away trade secrets, but you should be open and honest and authentic in your communication.

Carry on.
Don’t get sucked into someone else’s agenda. Your audience is on your side, not your enemy’s. Get their support. Steve Goodman was a great solo performer. I once saw him stop an obnoxious member of in the audience by improvising the lyrics to the song he was singing to ask the person to please shut up or leave. The audience went wild because that was exactly what they were thinking. He didn’t miss a beat and an uncomfortable situation was resolved.

Know when to fold them.
If the situation threatens the physical safety of you or your staff or the people attending your event, it is time to call in the cavalry. Don’t be afraid to ask the police or security to step in if the situation calls for it. That’s what they are trained for.

Nobody likes confrontations except for groups that thrive on confrontation. We don’t have a force field to protect us but if we keep our wits about us we can protect our ship and our crew. We can enter a hostile or alien situation and cause no harm. And as Captain Kirk would remind us, that’s our prime directive. 

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