In Part 1, we looked at this scandal through the lens of Penn State and the football program. Please check it out if you haven’t yet. Part 2 looks at this scandal through The Second Mile, the charity at the center of the scandal: Part 2 can be viewed here.
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal, Penn State has been criticized for many things. One of which was that it appeared to take them a few days too many to react to the situation from a crisis management/public relations perspective. The hideous grand jury testimony broke on Saturday, then for 3-4 days the University stammered through scheduled and cancelled press conferences, and it took until at least Monday for them to address the issue on their website, with a statement on their athletics home page.
The other organization wrapped up in this scandal, The Second Mile, the charity founded by Sandusky to help at-risk youth, has flown under the radar for many reasons. However one would imagine as more details emerge, the media spotlight is going to be thrust heavily on the organization, as Sandusky allegedly used this organization to find the young boys he would end up raping.
A quick glance at The Second Mile website shows they may not be quite ready. When going to www.thesecondmile.org, the visitor is first directed to a blue “splash page” that rotates words and phrases such as, “Ongoing Commitment”, “Responsibility”, “Character”, and… wait for it… “Positive Contact”. Don’t believe me? Check out the screenshot here:
The visitor has an option click through to the main home page or wait approximately 23 seconds before being automatically directed there. On the homepage, is a brief welcoming message that describes the organization in a few sentences, and then below that is a statement from the organization on the Sandusky situation, dated 11/6/11.
So, while the statement was apparently written and posted just one day after the story broke (even before Penn State posted a statement), the organization has failed in making that statement front-and-center. I imagine that “hits” to their website have increased enormously over the past week, yet in the wake of this heinous rape scandal, someone can visit the site and see the phrase “Positive Contact” flash across the screen before getting to a page with an official statement. Fail.
Of course nobody expects anything different from the nonprofit industry. Therefore, it is up to those of us who are nonprofit professionals (or communications/public relations pros in any industry) to learn from this and step up our games. This scandal is one extreme situation, and most relatively healthy organizations will never have to experience anything like this. However if any crisis of any magnitude occurs, we must make sure we quickly address the issue, take appropriate organizational action, and make a statement available prominently on the organizational website.