24 August 2013 0 Comments

Online reputation crisis: A case study of why Non-Profits should care

Author: yinkaolaito

Yinka Olaito is happy,excited and passionate Communications & Media specialist, Trainer and speaker. Yinka Olaito helps Profits and Non-profits with effective communication and positioning for premium service delivery and returns. Yinka Olaito also has special interest in Development Communication and has consulted for noted UN Agencies. Yinka Olaito is the CCO of Michael Sage Consulting(Communication/digital media), African Child Education Right Initiatives(NGO) and Content Director, Africa Development Talk( online Platform for discussion on Policy, Governance, development across Africa) and Africa Foundation for Young Media Professionals

plan-international, Non profits in Nigeria, Non profit Administration, Non profit and Social media, Non profit and online crisis management, Non profit and Online Reputation ManagementWe now live in an interesting but delicate age and time. This age gives power to everyone to express whatever excites them. This liberty and opportunity come with its own challenge. The challenge is that every local news has potential of gaining global attention. Someone said every news has potential ‘global warming` effect.

Global warming effect of today`s new makes a necessary demand on every brand to be fully prepared. Many Non-for-profits brands will not be spared. This include church, mosque and other religious outfits (which used to be hallowed places where people thread with caution)will no longer be spared. In Nigeria today, we now have a good case study which points to the fact churches and religious organizations now require services of crisis communication experts to manage or adequately prepare them in advance peradventure it happens.

The case study is about a young lady with a claim of having a sexual relationship with her  church Pastor. Her reason for going public was to seek healing and to explain her own side of the story. This according to her impression about her because she felt she had been maligned. Here our intention is not to join issues with either partyBefore we published this piece we did several searches online with different keywords and the negative results that came out for the church in question and the personal brand of the church pastor involved were overwhelming.

This should not be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with hot gossip in the media and most especially with New/Digital media. The original piece written by the lady has been shared, reused, prefabricated on several social media which includes frontline bloggers, online media news platforms as well as various twitter warlords within and outside Africa. . Unfortunately for the church and the alleged pastor the platform the lady used opened the issue to global audience.   

Before we go one, we will like to establish we are not a qualified judge in this issue and so our motive is not in that direction. We also recognize individual`s right to express their views so we are not trading blame on any individual. Our view here is to raise our voice in support of what we think every organization including church should do. They need to prepare as well as build relevant internal skills so they can fly across the ocean easily when the storm arises.

Now back to the issue under discussion, we have noticed with lots of surprises and mouth wide open it appears neither the church nor the Pastor involved is adequately, that is if they ever have a plan, prepared for this kind of crisis. A time like this is not a time to be silent. Especially when the actor involved raised fundamental issues, claimed the matter had been ongoing for close to a year. Waving such issue away with regular church cliché like ‘she is an agent of the devil` will not suffice. In advanced society, Police and other related authorities with vested interest would have started digging for more facts that can nail the church. Do not forget she claimed she is not the only one in `this abuse of office` case according to her language. This can be a court case in western world if proved. The church if adequately prepared should have been on top of its game using same platform that sparked off the fire.  The pastor with his robust twitter handle, he has one, joined with the church online platform should have said something. Doing so would have gotten them people who also understand we are all human and who understand to err is human in their support. In this instance acknowledge and ask for forgiveness or understanding or rebuff the claim and state clearly the opposing facts. But we think the church is thinking the issue will die a natural death. Or can we say they are praying about it since this act is seen as offence only to God?

Even if the crisis dies down slowly, what about the global reputation damage involved online? We should not forget Google`s memory is not that short. The church will need to do a lot of clean up on the first page search result. But beyond image management the mind of many of their potential and actual targets might have been polluted. Besides this, the whole world is listening and watching. Many may feign ignorance but we can assure you they are secretly following up, monitoring as any news item breaks.

With this crisis at hand these are some of the things the church should do:

Be in charge and communicate: please offer official statement especially when the lady involved claimed the pastor had confided in another leader the stuff really happened. This is the path of honour and the whole world will respect you.

Tell what has been done: it is also important to communicate what steps have been taken through social media platform. A good case was the steps taken by Deeper Life church against the son of its General Overseer who was `presumed` to have broken certain rules of the church wedding ceremonies. Also when the alleged write up about Sam Adeyemi’s ‘purported purchase’ of Private Jet came out in the news, he at least discussed this with the church leaders/workers as untrue.

 Damage control: since every crisis communication must care for people over process, it will not be a bad idea to invite the lady and put her through counseling and psychological rehabilitation exercise which can help her gain full control or strengthen her faith journey since this is what she is in search of. With this she may likely turn out to be a good advocate or mouthpiece of the church. If not she would have found her way back to the fold. The above mentioned steps may be demainding but it hold a future.

 With these said do you not think Not for Profits need to care about their online reputation? Since most of them and theirs issues are now freely discuss online.

Logo credit: Plan International

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