Public Relations of Scientology: How Scientology Handled Ex-Employees and What PR Can Learn

scientology public relations

Scientology is no stranger to controversy from the outside or from within. It might go almost unnoticed without a few A-level celebrities added to claims of flagrant abuse of its members, employees, and volunteers. From the outside, most declare it a cult and want little to do with it. But, it is also clear they have an active body of PR people on board, creating and sharing moments from what they feel are good works done for humanity.

At the beginning of the year, several paid-for-PR press releases made their way forward sharing a few “summit” gatherings of world religious leaders. It was interesting as no names were mentioned of who those leaders were. A picture was shared with a gentleman by the name of Lee Man-hee. According to Wikipedia, he is a peace activist from South Korea and chairman of Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL), a non-governmental and non-profit organization for cessation of war and world peace. In the picture, Lee Man-hee is surrounded by several (maybe ten) people all making a sign that looks suspiciously like the hand “loser” sign. From the look of things, this summit was more of a reception hosting the leader of HWPL. It’s not really surprising that the website posting wasn’t picked up by any major news source.

Another paid PR release shared how volunteer members from the Clearwater, Florida region participated in another organization’s efforts to help veterans, handing out all of 135 or so articles of gently used clothing to the vets. The problem is that that region is the largest group of Scientologists – according to their records – with more than 12,000 members locally. There was no mention of how many Scientology volunteers joined the efforts, but surely with that much local support, they should have been able to have their own event and given more than 135 items away in the process.

Then they managed to get an article printed by PR Newswire quoting David Miscavige, the Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center for Scientology. Sharing a quote from him which says:

“We’ve arrived at the close of an all but mythic year…Not only a year equivalent to a thousand years of triumph, not only a year surpassing any since the first tick of time, but a year to remind us that time is quite easily compressed, especially when you are working at warp speed. It was a year of upward mobility that takes us to the front porch of infinity.”

We might add, it was a year when Scientology’s flowery non-speak might have even surpassed the most prolific of Presidential candidates.

If Scientology wants to get past the bad press of many years where the not so hidden secret about mistreatment of underpaid employees and paying former employees as little as $500 to sign stringent non-disclosure agreements, they are going to need to step up the PR game. Learning the ins and outs of real PR and skipping the pay-per-posting concept would be a good start. When you claim to be doing a lot of good work, then get out and do the good work and let it speak for itself.

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Comments

  1. MeccAannon says

    With Scientology the problem remains. If you HAVE no good work, you have to fake it somehow. In Clearwater the epicenter of Scientology “on the planet?” There are probably no more than a thousand or so people living in the area not counting staff. Far below the 12 thousand claimed. People got tired of the daily demands to donate money and take part in their haphazard attempts at PR. I’m sure the 135 pieces of hand-me-downs was all they could come up with! Contrast that EVERY Goodwill branch in the county pulls in far more used clothes each day!

    The big problem they have is there PR is mandated by a dead Science Fiction author who really didn’t do PR very well to start with. When their people look outside the organisation for more up to date methods they tend to defect. It’s a sticky problem for them and when they attempt to genuinely make friends with people they typically sound like neanderthals.

  2. Lisa McFearsome says

    Are you serious? Writing about the PR success of a life-destroying scam to promote your own business is just reprehensible. As you point out, Scientology sucks the money, sanity and family out of its victims. Do you have no qualms about using them as a self-serving business case study?

    What article will come next….the excellent graphic design program of the Khmer Rouge? Maybe some praise for the fabulous North Korean social media strategy? Please, have some respect for the thousands of people hurt by Scientology and put some ethical boundaries around what you consider “fair game” for subject matter.

  3. Lynette Byrnes says

    Man Aaron, you NAILED it! Fantastic piece.

    I’ve been in PR for over 25 years and I’ve been spouting the same thing about this “church” lately. I don’t know anyone in $cientology, but since Anonymous hit the scene, I’ve been consumed with watching them scurry to hide, or chase people with cameras and then try to pull off events like the ones you reference with NO ONE on staff!

    Anyway, I think the Hubbard thing ALWAYS freaked me out. Even when I was a teenager in the 80’s and that book flashed across the volcano…I just said to myself, “Uhhhh, this is creepy.”

    So, thanks for creating such a great read! I’ll be saving this article and sharing with my colleagues. – Lynette

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