When a large nonprofit children’s hospital garnered negative publicity around their executive compensation practices, the organization’s issue management team needed to determine if and how to react. The most important questions on their minds were:

  • Is this a crisis or not?
  • How does this coverage compare to other peers in their industry?
  • And will this negative coverage upset our target audiences and donors?

PublicRelay helped the communications team formulate a plan to analyze and handle this looming issue.

Step 1: Determine the severity of the issue and who is producing the coverage

First, the nonprofit’s communications team referred to their historical data to determine the significance of the story. They analyzed where it was coming from by outlet power as well as volume. The team was able to determine the coverage was not being produced by the high power outlets that typically influence the hospital’s donor base. The negative attention was also not significant in volume compared to other brand crises that the hospital had seen in the past. Therefore, the negative press about the brand was unlikely to immediately impact donations.

Step 2: Determine if it is spreading

The communications team paired the information with social sharing data to ensure that the story wasn’t gaining traction. Millennial donors are a key public for the hospital, so the organization was concerned about the reach of this potential issue on specific channels like Twitter and Facebook. After tracking the coverage across social platforms, the team was able to confirm that it was not picking up many social media shares nor growing in traction.

Step 3: Compare the coverage to others in the industry

As a final precaution, the team wanted to compare the issue about its compensation practices with other peers in the nonprofit realm to ensure that they were not getting more attention than their counterparts. The media analysis revealed that out of all the other major research foundations and hospitals of similar size, they had far less negative coverage than their peers during a similar event.

Step 4: Monitor the topic more closely moving forward

Although this instance did not require a response, the communications team now proactively analyzes the topic of executive compensation throughout its industry to ensure that they are not blindsided by any negative stories. Furthermore, they can consistently keep their C-Suite informed about trends in this domain and prove that they are appropriately tailoring their responses to negative stories.

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