When “It Wasn’t Us” Doesn’t Cut It

When it comes to reputation, particularly business branding, perception (or image) is everything. This is especially true online. The web can make or break a brand’s reputation, even if the image presented is entirely unfair. Now, we’re not talking here about gossip sites like TMZ or Gawker. Users understand what they are getting there. That’s the web at its worst common denominator. Entertaining? It can be, but it will rarely, if ever, show a person, business, or brand in the best light. And Internet viewers get that.

Attacking Guilt by Association

We’re talking here about the “real” or perceived “real” news publications. Those which readers are apt to believe or, at least, allow to color their opinions. When a business or brand runs afoul of these sites, things can go south in a hurry. But what if it wasn’t your fault? What if the negative perception didn’t come from you…but it came from “you”???

We put the “you” in quotes because that is EXACTLY what happened to a world-renowned charity recently. This particular charity is known to have political leanings, but has never before been described as outright discriminatory.

That all changed when an interview with a high-ranking official in the organization offended an international group of people by claiming that the charity as a whole disapproved of them.

When challenged by the show host, the official clearly and succinctly repeated his position. According to him, the ENTIRE organization was fundamentally opposed to that particular group of folks.

As you can imagine, this did not sit well with folks in that group and their supporters. It may have been less alarming if the person involved was not presented as someone having authority in the organization.

But that’s exactly how he was presented. Suddenly, that group – which depends, as all charities do, on the goodwill of people – found itself the target of some serious ill will. The segment of the charity in the United States really started taking a beating online and in social media.

But here’s the rub…the individual doing the interview had nothing to do with the international face of the company at all. He was in leadership…but in leadership of a small part of the organization on the other side of the world.

But that was not the perception. But what could the organization do about the incorrect perception??? Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, has some tips.

Disavow That Guy

“The organization as a whole did this well,” Torossian said. They came out publicly and said, essentially, this guy has an opinion, but it’s not our opinion. That’s simply not us.

Make Your Actual Position Plear

But distancing yourself from the dissenter is not enough. You must clearly and articulately state your actual position. In this case the charity did that.

Repeat As Necessary

You may not get your point across in one go-round. In the wake of something as drastic as this, you better make very clear your position. Repeating obviously and publicly is the only right way to go.

For more on how to handle your nonprofit PR online and elsewhere, contact Ronn Torossian and 5WPR here.