Only one crisis spokesperson and try to limit who else comments

Anyone following Catholic Church politics over the last decade is no stranger to William Donohue‘s acerbic comments. But if you are managing a crisis involving the sexual abuse of altar boys, among others, by bishops and priests, even Donohue should know better.

An excerpt:

Talking about the Catholic Church’s more aggressive posture towards victims’ advocacy groups, William Donohue had this to say: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”

Really. In crisis management a loose cannon [or canon] like this is your worst nightmare.

One of the key rules of crisis engagements is to designate one person, or two if it’s a constant and widespread crisis, as your spokesperson. Usually it’s your CEO, board chair or communications executive who take the responsibility. They are usually trained and understand messaging and media.

Because when you get people running off at the mouth, you dig yourself a deeper hole, as Donohue does in this story by criticizing a prominent support network, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”

Well, a reasonable person might argue, aren’t abusive priests more of a menace to the Catholic Church?

This seemingly endless Catholic clergy crisis has been handled poorly from its start. Adding misplaced blame of childhood victims only makes ending the crisis process harder, if not impossible, and delays the healing that’s needed before people trust Catholic priests again.

The lesson here is while you cannot control what everyone or anyone says in a global crisis, you have to try. Renegade reactionaries don’t serve anyone but their own agendas.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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