Update: May 25, 3pm: TNC’s CEO and director of external affairs did an excellent job facilitating their live chat with supporters and critics. They answered some very hard questions.
But my core question remains — is TNC fulfilling its brand promise in accepting BP funding? If not, that brand is busted. They’ll need to reach out to their base to take their pulse.
Update: May 25, 2pm. Good listening on TNC’s part, which is a crucial component of crisis communications. I received an email from a staffer on TNC’s digital media team at 12:13pm– just over an hour after this post went live–making himself and colleagues available for additional questions. We’re deep in conversation and I’ll keep you posted.
Just when I thought I was done writing on how vital it is for every organization to stay true to its mission and values and the brand that conveys them in its actions, The Washington Post blows the cover on BP’s funding of top environmental organizations.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was highlighted in the article but the Post also reported that other leaders in the field–from Environmental Defense Fund to Conservation International–have benefited from BP dollars as well. And although TNC responded quickly with a blog post from chief scientist Peter Kariva, and invited supporters and others to participate in an online chat this afternoon with CEO Mark Tercek, the comments on Kariva’s post (accumulated in just 24 hours at this point) showcase the anger felt on the part of TNC supporters.
This is brand gone bust big-time; far bigger even than the Komen-KFC cause marketing debacle since it’s all-organization and long-term rather than a single campaign.
There’s simply no way an environmental organization should be funded by a natural resources mining company–their key principles are radically opposed. Yes to pragmatic consultation as a productive partnership. No to taking funding and participating in BP’s greenwashing campaign. Not that it’s black and white at all, but on these fronts — I think it should be. At least if TNC sticks to its mission and values, as expressed by its tagline Protecting Nature. Preserving Life.
Conversation on this mess is passionate, with emotions running high. Because all of us who’ve supported the environmental movement don’t understand how or why these organizations we’ve supported in multiple ways have betrayed us. And betrayal is exactly what it feels like when an organization we’ve supported and counted on for years (never more than now, with the oil spill tragedy underway) proves to be something other than what we thought (and it said-via its brand) it was.
The web is full of conversation on this story. Twitter friend Pam McAllister, a former TNC staffer, is deep in conversation with me and asserts that TNC has integrity, supporting its definition of its relationship with BP as “constructive engagement.” Katya Andresen asked me what TNC’s PR folks should be doing and blogged on it.
What’s your take on TNC’s (and the other organization’s) funding relationship with BP? Please comment below or email me to share your thoughts. I’ll share the conversation out with the GettingAttention.org community.
P.S. TNC should have followed these guidelines for guarding its brand and developing the right partnerships. Hindsight.