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When More Than Goodwill is Required

 

Goodwill Banks only rarely overcome the damage to community core values.  My general rule is that the larger the program, the greater the number of vulnerabilities and threats to community core values.

One of the most common triggers that cause problems which overwhelm goodwill banks is easy to recognize. It’s when something is done in the name of community service or community interest that creates victims rather than what was intended by the organization. There are three kinds of victims: people, animals, and living systems. A river, a lake, damage to someone’s backyard. 

Community core values are personal protective beliefs held individually and collectively by the community and community members. These values are so powerful that when one of these core values is adversely affected by someone’s decision, action, or circumstance, individuals in the community and often the community as a whole become automatically concerned and will even take action with or without the insistence or influence  of outside forces. People can and will, in some cases, take to the streets in response.

5 Categories of Community Core Values

There are five categories of community core values. They are explained below roughly in the order of intensity and threat. Over the years I’ve worked in many cultures, although not every culture. But every culture I’ve worked in, including primitive Aboriginal cultures, have something like these values as a part of their culture, even if their culture is only verbal.

  1. Health and safety: literally any activity in the community that would somehow threaten the health and safety of people, animals, or living systems. Individuals will become angered and begin to take action on their own. First, spreading the word, then working towards generating larger public attention. This spontaneous reaction is seen quickly when it’s a medical issue, a public health problem or issue, or something that threatens children. There is a natural and visceral reaction on the part of the community to fight back, draw attention, and demand the help of public officials to restore health and safety, prevent, detect, and deter other potential threats to health and safety.**Special Note: In circumstances where public officials have given permission, licensed, or otherwise authorized actions by anyone that affect health and safety, the public officials who gave those permissions are generally publicly blamed and shamed quickly.
  2. The value of possessions and property: if something your organization is doing; whether it’s acquiring property, trying to develop new facilities, any activity at almost any level that would adversely affect the value of people’s homes, their property, their possessions, their aspirations for these personal things; a spontaneous and powerful personal reaction will occur. 
  3. Environmental threats: activities and events that negatively affect or could negatively affect the environment in any way, will cause a reaction across all sectors of analysis; by education, by location, by age level, in every economic status category and in every country on the planet. Once the community becomes aware of these threats, there will be a very generalized and powerful reaction.
  4. Impacts on community peace of mind: 
  • Freedom from fear: activities that make people lose trust in an organization, program, product, or activity, and become fearful. Trust is the absence of fear and fear is the absence of trust.
  • Pride in community: anything that will change the status of something people value in the community; generally, the look of something, the feel of something. Change in general is considered by many to be an adverse activity. 
  • Peace of mind: actions, decisions, or behaviors that make people worry needlessly.
  • Pride and community activities that might bring unwanted attention to the community: strangers, action, or activities that  have not really received permission from the community.
  1. Agitated, activated neighbors: something that causes neighbors to talk to their neighbors, who talk to neighbors, who talk to more neighbors. This behavior is usually the result of failure to anticipate local irritation, fear and concern. Failure to communicate, assuming that either the company reputation will carry it through or that nobody would care are always viewed as intentional decisions by someone in power. Every miscalculation, that people simply don’t care about changes being proposed can present a serious and powerful negative reaction. Actions being taken, even by a small number of committed individuals will enhance the conflict, start myths and rumors, and foster misinterpretation. People will get angrier. That anger is caused by the lack of advance information. When there is negative surprise, reactions come faster yet are completely predictable.

Tripping across these core values explains why people get so angry, so quickly. It seems irrational, but nonetheless, reaction is powerful and difficult to manage. The silence is a toxic strategy in every case of controversy or threat.

The main point in recognizing these community core values is that they exist inherently within a community automatically, even though perhaps never ever discussed until an incident occurs. Organizations and businesses, as well as public officials, sometimes react at first by  blaming ill-meaning activists, community ignorance, inherently irrational behavior that has no reasonable explanation, and people who won’t listen to reason. This is a communication strategy that will lead toward community outrage, a powerful and devastating level of extra negative energy. Touch a community core value and it will pretty quickly feel like touching the third rail on an electric train. The advocates’ good will of the past will fail to anticipate, quell or otherwise reduce the level of community concern.

There are limits to what the community, a society, or culture will tolerate whatever the level of generosity or community involvement by an individual, organization or institution. 

Start your assessment of the risks caused by those actions that could trigger community core value concerns. Here’s a list of questions you might find helpful.

Serious and important questions that your readiness analysis need to include:
  • What is the durability and value of your goodwill bank?
  • What are the limitations that goodwill banks can offset when the community feels threatened? 
  • When goodwill banks can’t overcome the damage to community core values, what is your readiness plan, scenario by scenario?
  • What are the types of hazards that overwhelm goodwill banks?

** Special reminder to college teachers and professors: If you or any of your professors or teachers are using any of my books in your public relations classes I am available to do up to two hours of Skype or Zoom lecture and Q&A sessions for your students.

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