I hope all crisisblogger readers watched 20/20 last night and saw the story about Matt Bandy. Matt is a 16 year old from Phoenix falsely accused and prosecuted of child porn because a few images of the nasty stuff was found on his computer at home. Despite the compelling evidence to the contrary, the prosecutor continued to push the accusations until the family accepted a plea bargain for a much lower charge–the equivalent of taking a Playboy to school. Still, he was branded a sex offender with the draconian restrictions applied to those who are thus convicted.
This story is of special interest for several reasons. One it is a great example in the extreme of the need sometime of “moving the black hat” as I advocate in extreme cases in Now Is Too Late2. When your reputation is on the line and you are innocent, sometimes you have to be aggressive and make the accusers the bad guys. In this case, the extremely aggressive prosecutor, more interested in his career than in justice, rightfully (in my opinion) has been outed as the real black hat in this story. View the extended interview with ABC and make up your own mind.
Second, is the personal connection. Jonathan Bernstein is the crisis manager who has been helping the family and their attorney every since they made the courageous decision to turn their bad fortune into a crusade. The 20/20 story is one part of the strategy. Creating an engaging and interactive website that helps manage the conversation that inevitably will go on about such an event is also part of the communication effort. Here is Matt’s website: www.justice4matt.com.
We were very pleased to respond to Jonathan’s request for help and provide the PIER System’s functionality to support the ongoing media relations and viewer response. This kind of communication activity shows the absolutely necessity of a small team or a single communicator to be able to handle the potentially hyperactive online response to this kind of national story and crusade.
For more comments about this communication effort as well as how you can get involved in this important communication effort, please go to www.justice4matt.com and be sure to use the contact form. (I just did!–and also emailed the governor).