It is often a forgotten requirement of the Marketing Department that crisis management needs to be handled as part of the corporate communications plan. While some companies have a fully functioning PR and Communications department, most do not and therefore the people best positioned to handle such issues, and who know the most about communication messaging is that marketing team.
With that in mind it is a rare company that has pre-crisis messaging already organised. Obviously, by its very nature, you don’t know what the crisis will be in advance, but what you can have is scenarios mapped out of the most likely problems to crop up – data breach, physical theft, employee relations (the list is long) with generic messaging that can be layered depend upon the specifics of the situation, as well as business management protocols for how to react.
And if your company has really messed up, well… there’s only one thing our parents told us to do in a situation when you are in the wrong…you apologise. Many people and companies wiggle around, obfuscate, rant or generally make matters worse by refusing to suck it up, look straight into the camera and apologise. There is an extraordinary amount to be said for an organisation that is willing to do this fully and formally.
This honourable behaviour is more prevalent in the Far East; a famous recent example being Sony when the PS Network collapsed, or the infamous situation with the chairman of Korean Air when his daughter (who happened to be a Vice-President) humiliated not only herself and her father, but the company she represented. He did the decent thing – especially within Korean culture – went public and apologised profusely not just for his family but more importantly, in the context, for his company.
But my favourite recent example concerns the apology that came from Yannis Mallett , the CEO of EA Games Canada, when they released the computer game ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ which was full of bugs, not properly tested and should have been delayed to fix properly. The game-playing public went berserk – especially those that had banked their money with EA by pre-ordered the product – with social media lighting up, as well as mainstream gaming media weighing in. Initial reviews were scathing (often a death sentence for a top-tier game) and it is hard to imagine that long-term sales were not negatively affected.
Customers expect more and Mr Mallett said as much in a public, detailed and highly personal apology. He outlined how the error happened, what was now planned to stop this happening in the future and put his name on this issue as the focus of responsibility. I recommend clicking on the link above to read it.
While many corporate or especially political apologies seem canned – probably from that Marketing Department – his felt like it came from a CEO who was genuinely sincere. As a recipient of this I, for one, am comfortable with remaining a customer.
I forgive you.
Want to see some other examples of terrible apologies? Check out the accurately named website ‘TerribleApologies.com’