Regardless of the charges’ merit, you absolutely should be thinking about how the scandal may reflect on your organization. Everyone associated with the organization — from the executive director to board members to staff to interns — are brand ambassadors, and their actions affect the collective integrity. Here are a few things you can do to help avoid a negative association:
Monitor the situation closely. If you can, use your relationships to get a handle on what’s happening behind the scenes and check for updates frequently. Then, monitor the press: Is the scandal getting coverage? What types of media outlets are covering it (local, national, TV, blogs)? What’s the tone of the discussion? Set up Google Alerts so that you can stay abreast of any developments and, if need be, react quickly.
Prepare a response. Depending on the nature of the situation, you may be asked to comment at some point. It’s always better to be prepared, so put together a few talking points or a statement that you can draw from if necessary. Be honest, clear and avoid defensiveness. And whatever you do, do NOT respond to a question with “no comment” — it generates suspicion and often implies guilt. If your organization isn’t at the center of the scandal, and it sounds like it’s not, you’ll probably only want to engage with the press if you become part of the story. Sometimes it’s better to talk to the media proactively to get in front of the story, but that’s probably not necessary in your case.
Step up your PR outreach. There’s no better way to maintain the integrity of your organization than by generating positive press coverage. This is, of course, a long-term undertaking but it’s a powerful way to counteract unflattering attention. Positive perception of the organization can make negative implications seem tenuous.
Remember, there is such a thing as bad publicity.
Stay on message,