Schiller Resignation Raises PR Questions for NPR

News broke this morning that NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned after the former SVP of fundraising for the organization Ron Schiller (no relation) was caught on tape making disparaging remarks about the Tea Party and raising questions about whether NPR needs federal funding.

An abrupt CEO resignation always poses big comms questions for an organization, with the biggest being: Does the organization have a succession plan in place? (NPR does. The group’s statement after the jump.) In these situations, stakeholders wonder whether the organization will crumble because of a leadership vacuum. Organizations – and their new leaders – need to reassure them quickly.

But in this case, NPR has the equally huge problems of both scandal and opposition.

NPR has had its fair share of sticky situations lately resulting from the Juan Williams affair. Members of Congress have made moves to reduce or end government funding for NPR, and conservatives have accused the media outlet of bias. And now, with this damaging video, there’s more fuel for that fire.

Schiller was meant to come to the Mediabistro offices today to film a Media Beat interview (it was canceled yesterday), which would have been a good opportunity to address these issues and get NPR’s message out. Instead, NPR must now address this controversy as well, and address it first. The organization has to use everything in its arsenal, including its own reach as a media outlet, to address the issues it’s facing on multiple fronts.

Statement from NPR:

March 9, 2011; Washington, D.C. –

The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

Board Chairman Dave Edwards said: “The Board accepted Vivian’s resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.”

According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, will be appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will establish an Executive Transition Committee to develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership.