In the last couple of year a certain amount of Non-profit organizations like WWF were criticized by the public. Documentaries and articles about theories how these organizations are a sold out and are not 100% non-profit.
Furthermore, this blog is focusing on their crisis communication strategy and their engagement with the public and target audience through social media.
WWF itself describe themselves as a Non-Profit organization. It is an independent organization under the Swiss law. WWF is a non-profit organization. They are independent and under Swiss law. It was founded on April 29th 1961.
“It was the product of a deep concern held by a few eminent gentlemen who were worried by what they saw happening in our world at that time”
WWF is one of the largest conservations organizations worldwide. Since the organization was founded, WWF invested over the last 50 years around $11.5 Billion in more that 13,000 projects. The company itself claims that they have more that 1300 WWF conservation projects around the globe.
WWFs’ mission, which they describe on their website, is to stop the degradation of the earth’s environment and to build a future in which the humans and the nature live together in harmony. They want to conserve the earth’s biological diversity, ensure that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable and promote the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. The non-profit organization focuses its work on the diversity of life on earth.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT & SOCIAL MEDIA
Furthermore, I need to explain what crisis management can be defined as. According to Cornelissen (2008) crisis management is preparing a strategy for a potential crisis which can potentially damage an organization’s reputation and the relationship with the stakeholders. Preparing a crisis management strategy is just part of the strategy. However, communicating effectively and responsible. Furthermore, the organization needs to take action to contain the crisis and needs to try limiting any negative critic or consequences. Naturally, to protect the relationship with the stakeholder and save the companies reputation.
In addition, Social Media needs to be defined as well. According to a economics dictionary Social media are often used – profile based – to network with different users and their communication and collaboration over the internet. The attribute of Social Media can be understood in the sense of a human community or a selfless and righteous dealing. With the help of Social Media, users can exchange information, as among individuals or among employees. They communicate with texts, pictures, videos, and sounds. Companies can network with costumers for the purpose of marketing, market research, customer support and -Feedbacks or crowdsourcing, or as administration with citizens, for the purpose of information and participation. Not least, agitation and manipulation through Social Media are possible.
Moreover, it needs to explained that WWF has been criticized a lot in the past few years. The organization WWF was criticized a lot the couple of years that they are doing greenwashing and are to close to the industry and not act as a non-profit organization. For example, the German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ (2012) claims that the organization benefits more the industry than focusing on saving the planet as they claim in their mission. Furthermore, a filmmaker named Wilfried Huisman filmed in 2011 a documentary called: ‘Ein Pakt mit dem Panda’. Translated it means: ‘A Pact with the Panda’. This film was very successful and shows different aspects of the critics around WWF. The critics surround WWF a couple of years now and therefore WWF needs to have a good communication strategy to protect their corporate communication. However, the problem is that WWF is defending the critics, but still does not show itself as transparent and honest. Their communication strategy is not clear and they keep secrets from the public especially their stakeholders.
Therefore, does my blog focuses on the critics and communication strategy of WWF as the documentary of Huisman was released in 2011.
The documentary of Huisman (2011) claims that being so close to the economy is contra productive for the organization. Furthermore, PR-Blogger, Facebook posts and Twitter posts claim that the WWF did not react as well as they should. They were not prepared for the shitstorm that happened in the Social Media. Even though WWF is represented on different Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. The issue of the extent of the documentary was not considered.
At the beginning of the crisis they started using their Twitter account to reach the target group. 140 characters on Twitter allow short but concise answers to the direct public, fans and critics. After a short amount of time the company was overwhelmed by all the critics and questions. Then they started answering briefly to every one with single messages. Furthermore, they did not use other Social Media accounts like Facebook that much. In addition, did the organization reacted immediately to the critics in their website. Even though the Web design of that site was antiquated it was successful. Within a short time there where 2.500 comments on their website. This shows what a big company WWF actually is and that they do have a corporate image
In addition, WWF used the usual PR strategies like releasing press releases on their websites and comments. Talking to journalists in person and via telephone. The communication department or likely the crisis management team was always within reach. This was possible even though the staff was constraint. Because the Social Media and other communication tools WWF reacted very fast to the stakeholders. Despite of that WWF was stretched to their limits.
On the one hand, are the actions of WWF understandable but I would recommend to to do less tweets at this point. The repetition of the tweets unsettled the followers by reading the same tweets. Twitter is not the digital place to communicate individually with the stakeholders in a crisis. In this situation a Blog or Facebook would suit the situation more because it allows a differentiate response. Fortunately, the WWF uses all relevant digital channels for its public relations work. In the past, there have been plenty of examples of different companies that decided to oppose the negotiations, on Facebook, on blogs and social media in general to respond. But nevertheless pushed WWF to its limits.
To clarify the WWF embassies these communication tools like a blog would be easier to control the communication outcome and messages. The focus would not be based on the documentary and more about the response of WWF. They could have frame their messages better. Choosing the Social Media platforms WWF was able to spread their message viral quickly. However, every reader recognizes mostly the individual Tweet and can not be so easily tap into the respective context. Repetitions do not make it easy for the reader. Therefore, it was a mistake to try to react personal and individually to the target group via Twitter. It would be easier to create a blog, a separate Facebook page or an extra Email account to connect with the stakeholders and to react individually to their concerns.
Last but not Least, there are different aspects of the communication strategy WWF used which can be improved.
Basically, WWF communications strategy was good and simple. They reached the stakeholders from the beginning. But at one point WWF was overwhelmed by all the requests within the Social Media. They could not frame their message anymore and lost control of the communication and the messages. Furthermore, the releasing of the picture of the crisis management team should have been the first thing. Besides, they should have published the picture on their website and blogs because the people are often not strongly attacked as abstract organizations. Furthermore, WWF should have focused more bringing the discussion to Facebook, their homepage or a blog right at the beginning. Twitter is just an account where WWF could just publish general updates.
Furthermore, they tried to solve the problem by themselves and had no partners. For a good crisis communication strategy WWF should have get some partners like bloggers, journalists, or influencers like celebrities, or large companies who want to burnish their image by using CSR. By building these partnerships the corporate image of WWF would be saved and their brand would be positively shown in public.
In addition, they could have published more videos or pictures about them or the crisis to keep the public updated.
A suggestion from my side would also be that you rather start small and gradually expand your strategy. WWF did it the other way around and lost the upper hand.
Positively to say is that WWF did stick to their communication strategy from the beginning to the end.
In the end, WWF went to court with this case and proved everyone that they were innocent. They survived the crisis. In my point of view did WWF still not recover from that crisis. Their image is still crippled and people still criticize them. Maybe not for this case but for other rumours or problems.
Deutschland, D., http://www.wwf.de, S., uns, Ü., & WWF-Netzwerk, D. (2016). Das WWF-Netzwerk. Wwf.de. Retrieved 20 January 2016, from http://www.wwf.de/ueber-uns/organisation/das-wwf-netzwerk/
Deutschland, O., http://www.wwf.de, S., uns, Ü., & Deutschland, O. (2016). Organigramm des WWF Deutschland. Wwf.de. Retrieved 20 January 2016, from http://www.wwf.de/ueber-uns/organisation/organigramm-des-wwf-deutschland/
Glüsing, J. (2012). Green Veneer: WWF Helps Industry More than Environment – SPIEGEL ONLINE. SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved 20 January 2016, from http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry-more-than-environment-a-835712.html
REDD-Monitor,. (2012). WWF scandal (part 4): The dark side of the Panda. Retrieved 20 January 2016, from http://www.redd-monitor.org/2012/05/29/wwf-scandal-part-4-the-dark-side-of-the-panda/
Springer Gabler Verlag (Herausgeber), Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon, Stichwort: Nonprofit-Organisation (NPO)
wwf.panda.org,. (2016). 50 years of environmental conservation. Retrieved 19 January 2016, from http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/history/