World Vision, a popular Christian charity organization, has announced today that it will reverse its decision to hire individuals who are in same sex unions. The decision comes barely two-days after the organization received a myriad of complaints according to the Associated Press. Despite its best intentions World Vision created a communication crisis.
In examining the response to the complaints, it appears as though the organization employed a vocal commiseration strategy. This strategy included releasing an apology letter from the World Vision U.S. board of directors. The letter addressed that the board regretted its decision, acknowledged it made a mistake, and asked for forgiveness.
This strategy does have its advantages, admitting regret and issuing an apology can help temper “public hostility”. In a crisis management situation, the goal of any response is to repair the organization’s image and reputation.
However, simply issuing an apology does not automatically repair the damage. It is often not possible to completely repair an organization’s image with all its publics or stakeholders. World Vision will have to identify all the relevant publics and decide which publics are the most important.
Additionally, World Vision will have to decide if they will pursue any corrective action. This action might be implementing policy that will prevent this situation from occurring in the future. Corrective action reinforces the organizations commitment to its values and mission.
It remains unclear as to why an organization with such a large evangelical public would establish such a controversial policy. This calls into question the organization’s familiarity with its publics. Public relations is built around establishing and maintaining positive relations. Perhaps World Vision will remember this fundamental principle in the future.