Correction: Since then, it has been clarified that Jason Russell was not arrested, but rather detained. There are no charges pending against him.
Healthy skepticism never hurt anyone. In fact, doing your own research before committing to anything is an excellent idea, which is why the nonprofit organization Invisible Children didn’t shy away from criticism two weeks ago after they launched their Kony 2012 campaign. However, the criticism concerning the organization is about to get a lot worse.
Among some of the initial criticisms surrounding the Kony 2012 campaign was where the money donated was being delegated. Because nonprofits are required to disclose how they spend their money, people dived right into the finances of Invisible Children and found out that only around 30 percent of the donations actually go to Uganda. The majority of the money went toward their awareness campaign including filming, travel expenses, etc. While this information is still of concern to critics, Invisible Children is scrambling to justify another reputation wringer: the alleged arrest of co-founder Jason Russell.
Last week, Jason Russell was detained in San Diego for being drunk in public, lewd behavior, and vandalism. As if the organization wasn’t already under scrutiny, this stunt has changed the game from answering public concern to damage control.
Russell has been the face of the entire campaign, which is why his wild behavior put Invisible Children in a tough spot. The man has lived his whole life trying to bring change to Africa, and in two weeks he tarnished his reputation. The CEO of Invisible Children, Ben Keesey, issued an official statement:
Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.
The prime purpose of Invisible Children has been to create awareness for Joseph Kony and his crimes against humanity. You can learn more about the campaign here. Now, Invisible Children has to divide their efforts between pushing the Kony campaign forward and preserving their image.
What Invisible Children needs now more than ever is a solid PR strategy to help them with this unpredictable storm. Of course the organization couldn’t precisely prepare for this kind of behavior, which is why a PR strategy is essential. Considering the entire campaign is online, the best approach at this point is implementing online PR strong enough to smooth this over.
What do you think of this entire scenario? Can anyone argue “there is no such thing as bad publicity”?