How to Raise Sticky Questions in the Minds of Your Public: Clam Up

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August 25, 2011; Source: Appleton Post-Crescent | Many organizations go through awkward leadership transitions. But one thing you do not want to create is an information vacuum into which the public can insert their own speculations. For one thing, there are some people who just will not rest until they find out the story behind the story.

Earlier this week, the board of the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley in Wisconsin abruptly dismissed its executive director of 13 years, Debra Cronmiller. The only comment on the dismissal came from John Russo, the board vice president, who told the Appleton Post-Crescent, “We felt a change of leadership was appropriate at this time. While timing of these decisions is a matter of judgment, we felt the time was appropriate to make this change.” Somewhat mysteriously, Russo also said that the board had had no problem with the previous executive director’s performance.

Board President Kurt Eggebrechtwas equally vague. Speaking about the search for a new director, he told the Post-Crescent, “We recognize some of the core responsibilities that that position has. I think that’s something the executive committee will be finalizing and bringing to the board for final approval.”

Hmmm. Russo says he hopes that donors would continue to be generous to the shelter. We would be willing to bet that some will have questions they want answered. Again, and we say this repeatedly, consider your message carefully in a crisis. A great guide can be had in the classic article by Kim Klein, “Mission, Message and Damage Control.” Keep this in your permanent file!—Ruth McCambridge