In the new world of communications, everything’s public and conversations happen with or without your organization (image by Martino). We know this. Yet some companies (and people) seem to hide from their very public problems, perhaps a condition of 20th century PR techniques.
You can’t run from the mirror. If anything online media shows us, somewhere down the virtual path you will find a community pond that will shine that crystal clear reflection of you. Just like private life.
That’s why smart companies acknowledge and engage stakeholders about their problems. They note where they think they are wrong, acknowledge larger implications, factually address the matters, and correct matters. In some cases, companies/brands cease operations until they can address perceived wrongs.
There was no better case of this than SeaWorld’s comprehensive crisis PR last week. The company engaged first and foremost (see Scott Monty’s analysis). But more than that, SeaWorld did not run from the accidental death. It quickly brought in outside experts to ensure trainer safety, and won’t continue full shows until a complete evaluation was performed.
This is straight forward engagement. What a refreshing difference when compared to Toyota, who tried to ignore its problems.
Others try to wash away their problems by “cause-washing” them, or simply brushing them off as business (the personal equivalent is “I’m just human”). When problems aren’t acknowledged and followed by a sincere attempt to address the wrongs, trust erodes. And in the 21st century trust increasingly drives brand value.
The networked economy caused by peer-to-peer media means problems won’t go away. The only question remains will executives corporate communicators change general practices, and start addressing their problems head on.