Damage Control


You dropped a bomb So you sent your baby out into the marketplace and it blew up in your face: it’s faulty and there’s a public outcry. No matter how tempting it may be to hide your head in the sand and pretend everything’s fine, the sooner you acknowledge the issue and correct it – with a voluntary recall, full refund or replacement – the sooner you can put it behind you. Oh No you didn’t Embezzlement, tax fraud, sexual harassment, corporate espionage: if one of your execs gets caught red-handed doing a very bad thing, your credibility, brand and respectability will take a major wallop. Act fast. Terminate the offender, apologize sincerely to affected parties and make amends. Then, most importantly, publicly institute measures to prevent similar incidents in future. Finally, conduct a third-party review of the situation and share the findings with your stakeholders. You want to do the right thing and, just as importantly, be seen doing the right thing. Service interruptions When customers who rely on you for an essential service suddenly stop receiving it, they’ll understandably be miffed. But the more information you give them about what’s happening, what you’re doing to fix it and when things will be up and running, the more understanding and patient they’ll be. Keep all your stakeholders informed with regular updates about the situation (think turbid water in the GVRD) and consider offering a customer reprieve. A gesture of thanks and appreciation (i.e. a break on the monthly bill) can go a long way to smoothing things over. Ad Aftershocks Sometimes a bit of controversy is a good thing (remember the car-washing Paris Hilton ad that got everyone all hot and bothered? Carl’s Jr.’s website crashed from all the hits). But if your campaign overshoots the boundaries of taste and sensitivity, take responsibility, apologize and assure stakeholders it won’t happen again. When Sony put out an ad for its white PlayStation Portable in Europe that featured a Caucasian woman aggressively grasping a black woman by the jaw, a furor erupted. The company quickly issued a public apology, assuring that it would henceforth be more culturally sensitive. Last we checked, the PSP was doing just fine. EI overload Massive layoffs don’t exactly make for a pretty picture, especially if that picture includes angry workers and lands on the six o’clock news. To prevent things from getting ugly, give your staff plenty of notice and offer them the best compensation package you can afford, including career-placement counselling and retraining. Emphasize to the media that you’re doing your best to help your workers with re-employment and follow through on that promise.