Where’s the Shame?

Over the past week or so, we have been either entertained or astounded by two dueling sex scandals.  First, Mayor Bob Filner of San Diego come under attack for sexual harassment and then Anthony Weiner, candidate for New York Mayor, is again caught with his pants down and cell phone working overtime,

What strikes me is not the allegations.  They appear to be deserved, especially in the case of Weiner where there is written evidence from his sexting partner Sydney Leathers.  But what is striking is that both politicians have dug in their heels.  Filner refuses to resign and instead announces he is going into rehab for two weeks.  Weiner is on the campaign as aggressively as possible.

Maybe it’s my old fashioned upbringing, but if I were Filner or Weiner (and thankfully I am not) I would want to curl up in a ball, put my head under the covers and go away.  Instead, both, especially Weiner, have no sense of shame or embarrassment.  They lift their heads up high as if they have done nothing wrong.

How Weiner can look his wife and child in the eye and move forward in politics is beyond me.  How he can face New York voters, day in and day out, and ask for their vote, if quite astounding.

I guess we live in a world where nothing is too outrageous; where celebrities live out their lives on television “reality” shows and anything goes.

Nothing seems to shock us anymore and that is perhaps the saddest thing of all.


KTVU / Asiana Airlines PR Disaster

The crash of the Asiana Airlines flight that killed three passengers and injured about 100 others is unquestionably a tragedy.  Initial reports reveal that it could have been avoided. Most likely it was either pilot error or mechanical failure.  There are no other explanations.

But in the wake of the disaster, TV station KTVU announced the names of the “four pilots” of the aircraft.  And we all know that it was a hoax.  The names were a racially insensitive joke played on the station.

Asiana was quick to threaten legal action, saying the report by the station damaged their reputation.  They initially also threatened to sue the NTSB, but backtracked on that.  It is dangerous to sue the agency that can ground you with the stroke of a pen.

Then, a few days later Asiana backtracked again and said they will not sue KTVU, and for good reason.  They don’t have a case.

Defamation requires proving malice and clearly there was no malice in the TV station’s erroneous report.  Stupidity yes.  Malice no.

It is interesting that the airline would publicly consider a lawsuit against the TV station in light of the fact that their lawyers surely knew they didn’t have a chance.  Clearly this was a PR move, not a legal move, intended to divert attention from the real disaster.

Asiana has bigger problems than a joke played on them by a small TV station.  They are headed to defend a huge lawsuit by those killed and injured.

Which brings us back to KTVU.  While they are off the hook to defend against a lawsuit, they are not off the hook to explain to their viewers how the joke got on the air.  A simple apology, which they did immediately, is not the end of it.  A television station’s credibility is all it has.  Without trust that their reporting is accurate, they can’t and won’t be taken seriously.  This also applies to newspapers, magazines, digital reporting as well.

So there are PR losers on all sides.  Asiana must work to regain their passengers’ trust as does KTVU.  And the PR challenge of regaining customer trust is much more of a challenge than a lawsuit.


Changing a nonprofit’s name

Nonprofit organizations often undergo an evolution.  They add services, expand their reach and serve more diverse audiences.  Along with growth often comes the desire to change the organization’s name to reflect these changes.

We have been asked by many nonprofits to provide strategic counsel about the pros and cons of undergoing a name change.  While the results vary, there is one constant:  changing the name of a company or organization never should be done impulsively or taken lightly.

The first issue we consider is what will happen to all the people who know the agency by its former name?  Will they recognize the new name and continue to lend support personal loans for bad credit?  Certainly the first thing to be done is inform all supporters of the change, but will they remember?  It takes decades to brand an organization so people know the name.  All of a sudden changing it risks throwing current and future supporters a curve ball, as now they have to know you as something else.

The next issue is to examine what there is to be gained by changing the name .  Is it to make the staff feel better about their work?  Is it to project a larger presence?  Perhaps.  But we submit that if changing the name of an organization will not strategically grow it, then it probably is a bad idea.

We had a client with the word “Children’s” in its name.  This organization had been functioning successfully for 50 years.  However, they expanded their mission to include adults.  So would changing the name help grow the organization because it was seeking funding for adult services, or would it hurt because it had a core of donors who gave because they wanted to help children?

It was a tough decision, and one that consumed dozens of hours of meetings, strategy sessions and surveys.  In the end, it was our recommendation that after all these years, more harm than good would come by changing the name.  And they didn’t.

Our solution was to alter the tagline.  A tagline is a commonly used device to describe the work of an organization or company with a few words.  We’ve all seen it.  “Good to the Last Drop” as Maxwell House Coffee has said seemingly forever.

Taglines are commonly used to more fully explain the mission of an organization or a for-profit company.  Changing a tagline is usually easy and can be very effective in describing changes in the direction of an organization.  It is also very easy to do because it usually doesn’t require changing graphics, or if it does, it follows the design of the original logo.

So if your organization is considering changing it’s name, think first about changing your tagline and see if that does the trick. It will save you lots of work, worry and possible loss of support.