Michigan Governor Gives Masterclass in Responding to Public Demonstration

There have been examples of good communications and communicators during the pandemic. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci come to mind. Add Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the list.

In response to yesterday's demonstration in her state, where thousands of protesters blasted stay-at-home regulations, Whitmer exemplified the calm, we-not-me approach that PR pros preach for crisis response.

During her presser yesterday, Whitmer addressed protestors directly, acknowledging their right to be angry. But she also made points about health care and essential workers. She said it's OK for people to be frustrated with her, but they need to think about the larger picture too. Whitmer mentioned those who have lost loved ones and medical professionals, who are risking their lives to fight the disease.

The governor could have come to her own defense during the briefing. Instead, she focussed on others and the effect this protest could have on the state.

"I respect your opinions," Whitmer said. "I just urge you, don't put yourself at risk" by ignoring social distancing recommendations "and don't put others at risk either."

From a Distance

Whitmer pointed out the protesters took a risk congregating in large groups, especially without masks. In addition, she noted the possibility of protestors acquiring or spreading the virus by touching gas pumps to refill on the drive to Lansing.

She repeatedly mentioned the potential harm protestors created through their activities. Ironically, she said, their gathering may result in lengthening the stay-at-home orders they were protesting.

The gridlock protestors caused also clogged streets necessary for public transit and other services, such as ambulances, to get through. This also endangered fellow citizens, she noted.

One of the hardest hit states for coronavirus infection and unemployment, Michigan residents increasingly are frustrated with the state of affairs. The New York Times coronavirus case map shows the state ranking as the fourth highest in coronavirus cases, with almost 28,000.


When addressing a constituency it's important to remember the we-not-me approach, which provides a feeling of unity. The coronavirus touches every Michigander, whether or not they're ill now.

For protesters, it may come to a point when they, or someone they know, will have to come face-to-face with a doctor trying to save them. Whitmer was wise to remind the public of this.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.