Originally published: Feb. 8, 2014, 4:05 p.m.
Updated: Feb. 10, 2014, 1:59 p.m.

DropAnchorBranding-Lawsuit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A public relations firm co-owned by LGBT Community Center of Charlotte public relations chair and board member Patrice Shannon today threatened an online critic and consulting industry colleague with a “slander” suit.

The legal threat came during an exchange on the social media site, Twitter.com.

ModernSouth, a Durham-based consulting firm, initially “tweeted” some thoughts regarding the center’s current financial status and governance concerns. The center is currently facing down potential closure, with only about $6,000 on hand and lingering concerns over board accountability and leadership.

“Sad but interesting story on #nonprofits w/ weak board leadership and lacking accountability,” ModernSouth tweeted, following up with other thoughts in several other messages, “Sounds as though the @GayCharlotte Ctr. is potentially too broken to repair in current form. Would recommend new board, new governance rules, transparency, & immediate responsiveness for @GayCharlotte. Nonprofits inherently rely on the generosity of others; a nonprofit that’s not responsive to key constituents will fail.”

ModernSouth, whose principal is Virginia Fitt, then connected Shannon and her firm to the controversy.

“And @dropanchorbrand cilents [sic] should be concerned by this disastrous communication,” the firm said.

It was that tweet which garnered near-immediate response from Drop Anchor Branding, which responded, “The community center is not a client of ours. Any further slander of our business will result in legal action.”

“Clients of @dropanchorbrand should DEFINITELY be concerned. Threatening legal action over tweet is bad PR,” ModernSouth replied.

The exchange continued briefly, with several other responses and thoughts from ModernSouth.

Drop Anchor Branding concluded their exchange, saying, “Patrice is on the board as a volunteer only trying to better her community. Know the whole story before you comment.”

Fitt declined to further elaborate with qnotes on her Twitter messages, saying they speak for themselves and accurately represent her personal views on non-profit strategy.

Drop Anchor Branding’s two tweets in the conversation were later deleted.

Shannon initially declined to comment on Saturday as she prepared for a center fundraising event, but issued a short statement Monday.

“I have been a volunteer board member at the Center for 2 months,” Shannon said in an email. “I am appreciative of all interest in the success of the Center, and will continue to volunteer for its benefit and that of the Charlotte community.”

A screenshot of the conversation on Twitter appears below. Click to open in new window and enlarge.

TheModernSouth-DropAnchorBrand-Twitter20140208-1457

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

4 replies on “Center P.R. chair’s firm threatens critic with ‘slander’ suit”

  1. I can understand the comments about the center being a wreck but how can you blame Patrice Shannon who has only been on the board for a month. I met with her and she in sincere in what she does, I am afraid though with the present leadership her efforts could be her demise as many others before her, who did not agree with orders from above. Even though it is a First Amendment right to voice an opinion, I believe it is professionally wrong to drag her personal business into something she had no control over. Apology to Patrice Shannon is in order.

  2. I can understand the comments about the center being a wreck but how can ModernSouth blame Patrice Shannon who has only been on the board for a month. I met with her and she in sincere in what she does, I am afraid though with the present leadership her efforts could be her demise as many others before her, who did not agree with orders from above. Even though it is a First Amendment right to voice an opinion, I believe it is professionally wrong to drag her personal business into something she had no control over. Apology to Patrice Shannon is in order.

  3. Janice, I will take a moment to respond.

    The previous QNotes story noted a serious issue with communication to key stakeholders, particularly around the townhall and supportive businesses. That was during her brief tenure, and she was the one who provided quotes to QNotes speaking on behalf of the organization. Even with new “branding experts” on the board, the organization is continuing its missteps, and she appears to be directly responsible for some of them.

    If her personal business is branding and communications, then her work here is absolutely relevant. Her response was to disavow them as a “client” only to admit later she was on the board (but that was just volunteer work!), threaten a frivolous lawsuit in response to a fairly mild Twitter comment, provide no comment to QNotes (except to provide a comment to say that she had no time to comment, maybe Monday! — which is worse than no comment), and then only after the story was published, delete the Tweets. That is an exact lesson in what not to do in public response to criticism, and her clients should be more concerned than ever if that’s how she manages her own brand.

    The point of being a strong board member is that you put your personal reputation on the line for the organization. Every. Day. It is part of the responsibility of being a board member. And if every board member understands that their professional reputations are on the line when they’re a board member, then there would be fewer out of touch, unaccountable non-profits.

  4. Also, nice to interact with you, Janice! I’ve heard so much about you (even when I was living in California). I do think Patrice has the best of intentions and wants to make a difference here but isn’t the right fit for the job here. If you’ll see the conversation (and fleshed out here), my first, immediate recommendations for the center would be:
    – Create new board leadership. It is difficult for a board that has lost the confidence of the community it serves to rebuild.
    – New board governance policies, emphasizing transparency, accountability, and stakeholder voice. This should be accompanied with a board training on the roles and responsibilities of a board AND should include a give-or-get policy.
    – Develop a wind-up plan immediately as a back-up, and develop a plan to cut costs and meet monthly obligations while accumulating a surplus. The Center continues to be in financial crisis, even after the fundraiser.
    – Stop with this membership nonsense because their membership fees aren’t tax-deductible or at least aren’t fully tax-deductible. Nobody has even mentioned that part! What a mess.

Comments are closed.