Anticipating the Public Backlash: Public Relations Lessons for Nanotechnology from the Biotechnology Experience
University of Dayton School of Law, US
Keywords: nanotechnology, public opinion, politics, public policy, public relations
Public concern about the safety of nanotechnology is growing. Whether rationally based, or not, that concern can impede research and commercialization in the nanotechnology industry. This risk parallels problems already encountered by the biotechnology industry, particularly with regard to genetically modified foods. The nanotechnology industry should learn from the experience of biotechnology, and implement more effective public relations strategies to respond to public concern that can threaten nanotechnology development. The biotechnology industry made two key mistakes when dealing with early public concern about its technology. It first tried to ignore the concern, and later attempted to address it through rational arguments. The nanotechnology industry currently appears to be following a similar path. Instead, nanotechnology proponents should launch an aggressive public relations campaign in support of the technology immediately. That campaign should be based on both rational arguments and best sales and marketing practices that appeal to the emotions of the public. Immediate action to promote nanotechnology to the public is necessary to avoid the type of public backlash that could impede nanotechnology development. Such a backlash could have significant adverse economic consequences.
Nanotech 2004 Conference Technical Program Abstract