The non- profit organization that has suffered from a public relations crisis is Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). The mission of WWP is to honor and to empower the wounded warriors – who are veterans that leave the army (Davidson & Faria, 2017). Moreover, the vision of the organization is to ensure that it fosters the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service to members in the nation’s history (Dotson, 2017). The main purpose of the program was to raise money as a nonprofit venture and provide free programs as well as services that address the needs of the wounded warriors and do as a way, to fill in the gap that the government care fails to facilitate (Davidson ; Faria, 2017). The programs offered include outreach and engagement of the veterans, mental and health support through giving the veterans the best available treatments (Davidson ; Faria, 2017). As well as financial assistance, employment opportunities, and education to the injured veteran so that they can have better lives in the end.
In this case, the charity watchdog group, charity Watch accused WWP organization being an organization that receives its funds from donors that it had spent less of the donor funds on the stipulated projects but instead spent much of the funds on big public events that were irrelevant (Torossian, 2016). The crisis escalated as the information was picked up and put into reports and newspapers that the organization spends much of its money on high-end events and travels. The negative publicity being the organization was said to have spent about three (3) million dollars on the Colorado conference, which was a five-day trip. This was then fueled by the fact at that moment, two of the organization’s leaders had to be let go as they were making $473,015 and $369,030, respectively, in 2013. (Wax-Thibodeaux, 2017).
This situation became a crisis very fast since the organization being a non-profit organization was supposed to act as a helper to the people that it promised to help. But unfortunately, the top management utilized the donor funds irregularly by treating their employees to leisure activities as is the case of the Colorado conference (Di Pietro, 2016). The firing of the two top people who guided the Charity by the management Nardizzi and Giordano caused the public to now become critics of the entire organization (Torossian, 2016). In addition, the firing of the two top staff members raised more questions than answers as at that point the organization was seen to be consuming 54% of its total earning on irrelevant activities as claimed. This then became a public relations crisis as the public outrage blamed WWP for not spending their donations right (Di Pietro, 2016).
Nonetheless, the public relations nightmare came about when the organization released a press statement, whereby it first defended itself from the allegations that the news accounts found claiming that the information was false. Therefore, as a public relations campaign, WWP recounted that it spends about 81% of all its donations on recommended programs and not the 54% of all funds on irrelevant activities (Wax-Thibodeaux, 2017). In the same release, it announced that Chief Executive Steven Nardizzi together with Chief Operating Officer Al Giordano were “no longer with the organization,” saying “the board determined the organization would benefit from new leadership” (DiPietro, 2016). It then went to issue statements on its website and pages that the media reports had false information about the organization’s finances. But as it turned out, WWP scenario is a case study of not what to do when hit by a crisis.
As a public relations expert employed by WWP during the crisis, the public relations campaign first would be to ensure that the mission of the organization is remembered. Secondly, I would need to keep the donors trust since they determine the continuity of the organization. The next goal would be to keep the trust of the people and the veterans that we serve so that they do not feel short-changed. Additionally, the next goal would be to gain back the lost sympathy (Dotson, 2017). Next would be to be more transparent by providing real and unrefutable facts regarding WWP finances to dispel the rumors with the truth. By using a third-party wing to bring back the needed and wanted trust, back to the organization (Fine, 2017). Another goal would be to state categorically that the media did not seek the views of WWP to corroborate the information running in the media. Lastly, would be to report on positive changes in the organization to make the people and donors trust the organization (Davidson ; Faria, 2017).
In this campaign, the first goal was selected to ensure the organization’s mission is not drugged in the mud to make the relation superior to the current crisis (Dotson, 2017). Donor trust is most important since without them relating to WWP there is no organization. Veteran trust is crucial as they will help fight and dissolve the rumors that had spread about WWP. Sympathy is also essential as people will side with WWP because of the unfair treatment by the media press.
Therefore, the revealed truth will dispel the rumors that together with the denial of being contacted for a reaction and providing of the real fact will be a way to show the public that as the media give false information, WWP shares the needed truth and are open about it, resulting into crashing the press’s tide (Dotson, 2017). However, the third party is to make the organization acceptable and to ensure that it dispels of any doubt that the organization was hiding or is hiding anything from the public. The reporting of positive changes is to allow the organization to connect with the public as it changes to adapt to the recommendations by the third-party’s investigative report. This brings a feeling of trust in the organization (Davidson & Faria, 2017).
Therefore, in achieving these goals, the first step would be a press conference, and in the press conference, the first words to utter would be an apology to the people, to the donors and the public. The reason for the apology is to correct the bad words uttered by former employees and a clearly explained reason why the Chief Executive Steven Nardizzi and Chief Operating Officer Al Giordano are no longer in the organization. The following step would be to issue a statement, for example, “CBS News did not reach out to, Mr. Richard Jones, chair of the audit committee, before airing a story with false information about our finances.” That statement would be issued to all the newsrooms that did publish the WWP false story. The following step would be to give the real facts of the story that the organization spends 81% on programs, and in doing so not mention the incorrect facts given by the press (Dotson, 2017). Then after this would be to show the public that the organization is ready and willing to be scrutinized whereby a third party will be introduced to do a full audit of the firm, even though the press may be wrong it would be important for WWP to ensure that its public image is repaired and set straight (Fine, 2017).
The next step would be to send out copies of the real financial statement to all news outlets. Then to introduce the third-party auditor, and at this point, all donors, veterans and the public would accept the apology from WWP and ensure that they understand everything. Then to show how the organization would be following every single recommendation made by the third party and how the alleged financial crisis even though it never happened will never happen in the organization due to the strengthening of its current measures more. In this case, the third party to ensure better credibility would do the positive feedbacks (Davidson & Faria, 2017).
Finally, in assessing the outcome of the campaign, the most effective would be to, first survey whether the WWP’s trust has been restored to the public through the necessary taken steps. Next would be to look at the website statistics and how they have faired by comparing the veteran intake program statistics to the previous year. After that, comparing the donations of the organization in 2015 and 2016 as well as comparing the WWP’s events data with the previous years to show the attendance by the public. In addition, looking at the media and what stories it would be printing about WWP (Davidson & Faria, 2017). The evaluation plan would seek to look at the media stories, and if positive it would show that the campaign bore fruit and was a success (Fine, 2017). Moreover, the positive survey, that would signal an increase in participation, donations and veterans in the programs would be indicators that the public relations campaign worked. Also, the website statistics although bias would indicate more people being interested in the WWP organization (Fine, 2017).
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References
Davidson, A., & Faria, V. (2017). WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT: Using Veteran Pain for Executive Gain.
DiPietro, B. (2016, 3 21). Crisis of the Week: Scandal Engulfs Wounded Warrior Project. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 28, 2018, from https://blogs.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2016/03/21/crisis-of-the-week-scandal-engulfs-wounded-warrior-project/
Dotson, M. (2017). Comparing and Contrasting For-profit and Nonprofit Crisis Communication Response using WT Coombs’s Situational Crisis Communication Theory (Doctoral dissertation, University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University).
Fine, S. H. (2017). Marketing the public sector: Promoting the causes of public and nonprofit agencies. Routledge.
Torossian, R. (2016, March 16). The biggest PR crises of 2016 so far.Forbes. Retrieved 7 28, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2016/03/16/the-biggest-pr-crises-of-2016-so-far-and-what-your-brand-can-learn-from-them/#4bab367c70c4
Wax-Thibodeaux, E. (2017, FEB 8). Wounded Warrior Project cleared of ‘spending lavishly, report finds. The WashingtonPost. Retrieved 7 28, 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/02/08/wounded-warrior-project-cleared-of-spending-lavishly-report-finds/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5ade20584260

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