Sometimes in November, 2019, Babcock University, Ilishan Remo was in the news because of two of its ex-students who recorded themselves making out reportedly at a rehabilitation centre. Since then, people have been trying to understand the university within the domain of the image damaging incident. In a recent article, the university was advised on the implications of the sex tape saga on its reputation. It was also urged to up its digital PR game. A move made exactly a month after the incident has shown that the university’s authority and its communication team are yet to realize the magnitude of that singular incident on its reputation and digital goodwill.
The President and Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Tayo Ademola had summoned a media parley on Sunday December 9, 2019 to further brief the media on why the university expelled the 300 Level female student who was involved in the leaked video. The move apparently was to bolster the image of the institution after the image denting misdemeanour.
However, analysis has shown that the move may not achieve the intended target. There are noticeable flaws which are further examined in this piece.
#Lack of clear crisis communication strategy. It is apparent that the university’s communication team does not have a strategy to combat the crisis. For every crisis, there are different strategies. An organization can employ refutation of facts, minimization of impact, recovery of reputation and reinforcement of reputation to combat the backlash of the crisis. A quasi-statistical sense analysis does not show the communication team has a clear strategy. An attempt to minimize has been made but recovery and reinforcement which should follow is not forthcoming. The news of the luncheon was carried by four newspapers online. These include the Punch, Vanguard, the Nation and PM News. A recovery strategy would have involved the stories being widely spread online employing both established news houses as well as high impact blogs. The social media handles of the university should have also been deployed to maximum advantage. They constitute part of the owned media. However, a check on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the institution did not yield much. Clearly, the strategy is unclear, the tactics poorly communicated.
Figure 1: The Crisis Communication Strategies
#Absence of coordination between earned, paid and owned media. Analysis has also shown that there is a link between the lack of strategy and absence of coordination of the available media to the university to leverage on to combat the image crisis. For every organization, there are three kinds of media. The owned media is within the control of the organization. Paid media is the paid third party channel while earned media is the public share and attention a company attracts as a result of the activities on both the owned and paid media. On this case, the university neither coordinated its media nor synchronize them to solve their image issue.
Figure 2 : Available Media to Babcock University
Source: Adebiyi, 2019
When owned media are used, organizations have the chance to tell their own stories the way they want it without the impediment that gate-keeping of paid media usually present. Websites and social media handles of the university are the owned media here. The university should have come up with content that resonates its vision and mission and push them out on the owned media. The handlers should have used the Facebook page, Twitter handle and Youtube channel to counter negative narratives. These are channels that the university has control over. They could have been used to generate positive electronic Word of Mouth. The eWOM could go far in the digital environment to ensure public interest which could assist the university to normalise search terms.
#Trends online has not moved an inch. For Babcock University, the online trends still remain the same. Analysis of how the university trended online earlier done has not changed. Related terms searched alongside the university still included babcock university video; babcock university students video; babcock university student video; babcock university sextape and babcock university girl. This is an indication that nothing much has changed. Those who searched online are still trying to understand the university within the domain of the sex tape scandal. A check on public interest in the video from the time it first surfaced online and up until the media luncheon was done has shown a significance increase in interest.The university’s communication team needs to again check its strategies and come up in clear terms what it intended to use to tackle this issue once and for all. The longer it takes to do that, the more the trends are going to remain the same for the university.
Source: Google Trends, 2019; Adebiyi, 2019
Similarly, an analysis of the search terms for the university during and after the crisis has also shown that the trend is not abating at all. Related terms still remain the same with the word “sex” ranking well with the university during and after the crisis. It is suggested that the university’s communication team takes the trends more serious. Online goodwill is an essential component of digital public relations.
Figure 3: Public Interest in Babcock University during and After the Crisis
Source: Google Trends, 2019; Adebiyi, 2019
The university seems to be losing a lot if the communication team is not paying attention to its communication online. For instance, mined comments of the readers on the Punch website seem to be generating sentiments on the part of the university. A reader, Benny agafa said, “Thank you so much VC. Am reading with tears in my eyes as a father and as a believer. I know what the parents are going through now. Since our Lord and saviour did not condemned (sic) any one so we should also shows love and correction always.” Another, Wolex, posited that “This is what Christianity is about. There is always room for forgiveness after repentance. That is true love. May the Lord continue to bless the University.” The right mix of the communication channels properly appropriated would have assisted the university in burying the ghost of the unavoidable image crisis online.