Tom Garrity

A Butterfly, an Ostrich and Transparency?

In Crisis Communication, Education, Reputation on July 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

The High Desert Investment Corporation (HDIC) and its parent the Albuquerque Academy (New Mexico’s academic leader for independent and public education), have a financial problem that has spiraled into a crisis which threatens its reputation as a trusted institution.

The Albuquerque Journal has an excellent overview of the situation in today’s publication by Rosalie Rayburn and Richard Metcalf.

The Readers Digest version: The Albuquerque Academy’s HDIC is pulling out of its most recent residential development, Mariposa (which means Butterfly).  Homeowners in the high-end community are now faced with the potential of staggering increases to their property taxes.

Aside from making a board member available to media, the Albuquerque Academy is in a communication “ostrich mode”; not communicating with Mariposa residents, parents of students and the community at large.

Opportunities to communicate the issue through social media are non-existent.  Mariposa’s website, facebook and twitter feed (run by HDIC marketing) are silent on nearly everything, including the issues facing its community.

The factors driving the HDIC decision are complex; annual bond payments of $1.2 million are the root cause.  Those complexities should be the motivators for the Albuquerque Academy communication efforts.

Getting consistent information from the Albuquerque Academy is difficult.  Their website is silent on the Mariposa issue as well as the current status of its endowment.  Reported to be $298 million in 2008 by the Albuquerque Journal, the New York Times reported its value at $180 million a year later.

Transparency and consistency of message are two approaches that the Albuquerque Academy can use to start addressing this communication abyss manifested by the Mariposa pull out.  Whether it will be enough to salvage the brand of a New Mexico education icon; that depends how its leadership addresses short-term communication efforts.

Disclosure: My firm, The Garrity Group, provided public relation assistance to HDIC on Mariposa issues unrelated to the current situation.  The work was completed two years ago.

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