Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are You Ready to Respond to Your Association’s “Brian Williams moment?”


As you probably know, NBC News is currently embroiled in a raging controversy over reports of Brian Williams, the anchor of its NBC Nightly News.

In this case, Williams erroneously reported that he was in a helicopter in Iraq that was shot down.

The credibility of Williams and NBC is at stake. A Google search of “Brian Williams reporting case” lists 24.3 million hits.
(Note: yesterday, NBC suspended – without pay – Williams for six months.)

While not likely to this magnitude, your association can be exposed too.


Here are four common ways associations and nonprofits get pulled into negative issues in the media:

  • A board member “mispeaks” or makes grossly inappropriate remarks
  • Someone files a sexual harassment claim against a board member or staff member
  • A key association staffer is charged with embezzlement of association or charitable funds
  • A major donor is exposed as a child molester or support of a terrorist organization

So, what is an association to do?

Here are four suggested steps to ensure minimum damage to your association or nonprofit.
  1. Have a written crisis communications plan.
  2. Monitor media (including social media).
  3. Be out front and transparent.
  4. Act if needed before it is too late. (We will see if NBC’s fairly quick suspension of Williams stems the flow of negative criticism.)

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