Every sorority or fraternity has an experience they’d rather forget about. There may have been a guest who drank too much at a party, or a pledge caught with drugs on campus. When this happens, previous alumni may lose trust in their former house. In order to continue the valuable philanthropic work of your chapter, as well as to secure the continuation of support from alumni, it’s important to understand how to manage a public relations crisis. Keep these simple tips in mind:
First, truly, deeply listen to the concerns of past members. If it’s appropriate, invite them over on an individual basis, or reach out to members who’ve expressed concerns about what happened. They’ll be impressed you’re concerned enough to call them, and feel like you value their wisdom and input.
Listening means nothing if you do nothing. Tell alumni how your chapter will work to remedy the situation, whether the remedy be an apology, paying for the damages, or some form of community service. This helps to show that even if what happened was terrible, your chapter cares and are committed to taking responsibility for their actions.
Finally, it’s not enough to say that you’re taking action. These people lived in the pledge during their formative years and care deeply about what happens to it. Give them a sense of control by providing a forum for oversight. This could be as simple as letting an alumni committee suggest a reasonable punitive action, or providing them with a chance for input in future house rules. Without allowing actions that are too zealous, look to support reasonable gestures that give alumni more control over the actions of their beloved house.