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Mis-Communicator of the week: The National Trust

There is much to be said for having in place a team of good communicators backed by a robust crisis plan. This will go a long way to getting an organisation through a difficult period but how can you prevent the difficult period developing in the first place?

We can begin to answer that question by looking at the pressure this week's award winner has found itself under.

I wrote last year about the misguided new strategy and jarring approach to conservation the National Trust was pursuing. The Trust has caught the bug so prevalent in many public organisations of pursuing new strategies, initiatives, work streams and reviews instead of just doing a good job.

This has annoyed its members - full disclosure that includes me - as well as bringing it to the attention of the media who are now in the market for a National Trust knocking story.

Now, when the Trust is in urgent need of friends - when it needs to cash in some favours or persuade eager journalists not to write the story - none can be found.

Reputation is something built up over time. It is something that needs to nurtured and continually looked after, not allowed to whither and fade.

Theresa May has been criticised for her forthright words on the National Trust and a spring event at 300 of their properties called the Cadbury Egg Hunt said by the Church of England to be "airbrushing faith" from religious festivals.

The prime minister said a decision not to mention the religious festival in the title is "absolutely ridiculous". Her strong words were echoed by Christian, Sikh and Jewish religious leaders as well as the family of the founder of Cadbury.

On Tuesday morning, the National Trust added the word "Easter" to the banner at the top of its webpage promoting the hunt. It now reads: "Join the Cadbury Egg Hunts this Easter." The word is now mentioned five times on the page promoting the hunts.

Both Cadbury and the National Trust reacted quickly to this issue. The words they used were carefully chosen. The fact though remains that the Trust's reputation was already tarnished. The Trust ignored or offended those most likely to back it when it was under pressure, which includes a vicar's daughter who is now prime minister, and is why the National Trust is Mis-Communicator of the Week

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.

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