In the wake of national criticism from major organizations and residents of Indiana, Governor Pence’s attempts to pacify the media and nation about the now infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act has backfired. First, he tried to defend why he passed the controversial law. In an Interview with George Stephanopolous of ABC’s This Week, Governor Pence said that “if a there is a government action or a law that that an individual believes impinges on their religious liberty, they have the opportunity to go to court.” He then passed an amendment to the law to emphasize that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act forbids discrimination of any kind.


AP Photo

AP Photo

His tactics did little to pacify residents, as his favorability rating dropped to 38% from 62% in February, according to a poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. All the negative attention is reflecting poorly on the state’s tourism and foreign businesses. Indiana’s Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has hired global PR firm Porter Novelli to help rebuild the state’s ailing image. Porter Novelli is a global public relations firm with offices in 60 countries. The firm is not new to tough cases, having successfully fought Big Tobacco with their Truth campaign. It’ll be interesting to see how they plan to fix Indiana.


An essential step in dealing with a crisis is to admit wrong doing and to take appropriate steps to rectify mistakes. Governor Pence has attempted to set the record straight, although rather unsuccessfully. The next steps will be reassure your publics, in this case residents of Indiana and the nation as a whole, that measures are being put in place to ensure that those missteps are not repeated. Many have suggested that adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the state’s civil rights laws or fining businesses that discriminate based on sexual orientation would be the best course of action.


Those involved in a crisis, especially a public one, must remain calm and retain composure. It’s easy to become agitated, especially with the media, in the face of a crisis — it’s not the time to play the blame game, appear evasive, or lose your cool on national TV. You only risk alienating people further. We look forward to learning from Novelli’s campaign and seeing how Pence carries himself through the coming months, because the media attention is likely far from over.


Where does the state go from here? How can it win back the trust of its constituents, businesses and the rest of the country? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @mo_yeen.