How Oxfam became a case study in bungling crisis response

With allegations of sexual misconduct by staffers in Haiti, the disaster relief agency has found itself in a PR catastrophe. Statements and inaction by top exes have only fueled the firestorm.

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They rarely arise in the charitable sector, however.

The Oxfam maelstrom reminds us that no organization is immune from an existential crisis. What went wrong for one of the UK’s biggest charities, and what could its communicators have done to head off or mitigate the damage from the unfolding sex scandal?

The first strategic decision is to recognize that you are facing a potential crisis.

Strike one for Oxfam.

At a recent House of Commons committee meeting, Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring admitted to not even reading the report into the wrongdoing in Haiti that precipitated the current crisis.

He’s also gone on the offensive, stating: “Anything we say is being manipulated. We’ve been savaged.” With more than an echo of BP’s Tony Hayward’s infamous “I want my life back” gaffe, Goldring told The Guardian he had not slept for six nights, saying: “The last six days have been the most intense and challenging of my life.”

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