Gregory W. Loh, APR, senior partner, public relations and public affairs, at Eric Mower and Associates (EMA), was a guest speaker at the 2009 Risk Management and Finance Summit for Nonprofits. Loh, an expert on crisis management, focused on the distinct challenges that nonprofits face when dealing with sensitive and controversial issues.
“A crisis can arise at any time,” said Loh. “While you won’t be able to predict what will happen, how you handle yourself in the first hours of a crisis determines the outcome – how you are ultimately viewed in the court of public opinion.”
The three-day conference, held Sept. 20-22, in Austin, Texas, and sponsored by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center, attracted a mix of nonprofit leaders and professional advisors from across the country to discuss issues and trends that are at the forefront for nonprofits. The educational program was focused on teaching strategies and tactics that foster a firm foundation and successful fulfillment of a nonprofit’s mission.
“In a crisis, nonprofits have unique and special requirements; they must speak both to the people they serve and to those who provide necessary funding,” said Loh. “A nonprofit has to retain the trust and support of the community by communicating directly with all of the stakeholders that are vital to its success. Without those steps, the resumption of normal operations and long-term viability are jeopardized.”
Loh was part of EMA’s team that led crisis communications for the American Civic Association (ACA), a nonprofit in Binghamton, N.Y., that was the scene of a tragic shooting in April in which a gunman took the lives of 13 innocent people. EMA provided on-site communications counsel and handled all media relations for the ACA. EMA helped the ACA respond to the media onslaught that ensued, coordinating messaging, stakeholder communications, media interviews and community outreach.
EMA also served as the liaison between the ACA and federal, state and local elected officials, utilizing its expertise in government and political responses to crises and disasters. Despite a devastating tragedy, the ACA never stopped providing support to its clients and resumed full operations within four weeks. The ACA continues to fulfill its mission today.