The Church of Scientology is girding its loins. After a week of disastrous press scrutiny following the TomKat divorce announcement, the organization looks set for further unsympathetic coverage. What role did Scientology play in the breakdown of the celebrity marriage? Who knows? But what is clear is that for non believers there is almost universal mis-trust when it comes to the Church founded by Ron Hubbard.
Rupert Murdoch caused a fuss last week when he Tweeted that the religion is a “very weird cult,” adding that there is “Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people.” An Internet backlash was immediate, but the problem was that those hitting back were almost exclusively Scientologists. What about friends and sympathetic supporters?
On Friday, news outlets detailed a memo allegedly distributed by the Church of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs that urges members to monitor the Internet for hostile statements about the Church and report them; hardly a strategy to win the hearts and minds of non-believers. With all their celebrity and influential contacts, wouldn’t the wiser, more sustainable PR strategy be to get non-believers defending the cause?
The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working, despite their high number of celebrity followers.
The PR Takeaway: Act and sound like you are at one with your name. The PR problem of the Church of Scientology is that it so rarely, from a PR perspective, behaves like a church. Where are the selfless acts of charity and good will that characterize the work of many other churches and religious orders? In tone and profile, the Church of Scientology sounds more like an aggressive corporation protecting brand and market share rather than a church. Why not be a little….well, church-ier? It could be the strategy shift needed as the TomKat divorce places the organization back in the headlines.