What was the low point in Oxfam’s response to its reputation crisis?
It was frustration boiling over for Oxfam’s CEO, Mark Goldring, when he gave a media interview to the Guardian and said that criticism of the charity was “out of proportion to the level of culpability”, that no one had “murdered babies in their cots” and that some critics had an anti-aid sector agenda.
However, anti-aid sector or not, in that one moment he revealed that he didn’t viscerally accept or understand the audience outrage over the issue – “Hey people, it’s really not that serious; no-one died; we’re on top of it now; jog-on”. It’s a useful example that we discuss in our media training.
Reminiscent as it was of BP’s Tony Hayward saying that “I want my life back”, Goldring’s language, tone and message were not only insensitive at a critical juncture in the story (fueling it further) but seemed to have missed the public and media context of his crisis – the post-Weinstein, #MeToo agenda about sexual predatory behaviour by individuals.
I wonder what his Communications team thought? Oxfam was already being accused of issuing misleading statements. Now it was also being perceived at best as tone-deaf and uncaring at worse.
Not a good place for a charity to be.