What would I do if I was handling Samsung Galaxy and Volkswagen…
Ancient PR wisdom decrees that one should always speak the truth in a brand-crisis situation. And fast. Surprisingly the PR souls at both these companies did neither. Perhaps intricate boardroom maneuvers made it impossible or as in the case of Volkswagen there were more skeletons being unearthed which made the timing not quite right. So here’s how I would handle such a crisis –
- Ensure that the company spokesperson is always visible and audible in the media and speaking about the crisis in a manner which is reassuring but not too slick because that may sound insincere. It’s amazing how quickly insincerity can be spotted. And no one forgives that. The tensile strength of the brand should not be too sorely tested because an unforgiven brand has very slim chances of bouncing back.
- A loyal customer is the best brand ambassador so keeping him/her informed is advisable. Tell the person that the Samsung Galaxy/Volkswagen is a good product that has stood the test of time unflinchingly and there deserves to be given another chance.
- Give the world a weekly update starting from the time things started going badly. Speak out clearly about what went wrong. And why. Not excuses like ‘it was not really our fault’ but talking about why the technology blew up in the customer’s face. Literally, in the case of the Samsung Galaxy. A crystal clear update demonstrates that the brand is strong enough to admit its mistakes and for the end customer that is always reassuring.
- At some point early in the communication process the CEO of the company should make a detailed statement. He/She should talk about the recovery plan, compensation to customers and the way forward, in a sense putting the brush strokes on the big picture. This goes a long way in proving to the end customer that the senior management has a handle on the situation. And since the customer is not a moron it is imperative that the picture being painted is believable in every way.
- And finally, the 24 carat rule – don’t apologize too much or too little. Keep the balance. Be professional and calm and dignified and the world will forgive. Anything more or less will seem like the company is not being honest and no one wants a brand that he/she cannot trust.