It seems like everywhere we look these days, a company is in the midst of a crisis. And while having a crisis is not the end of the world for a company or brand, the way it is handled can be.
Netflix is a prime example of a company that didn’t learn the 1,2,3’s of crisis communication. As we all have heard by now, the company sent out an email this past summer stating the new terms of its DVD rental service. It was going to be split into two separate plans, which in turn would raise prices. Of course, customers were not happy, so Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sent out an email a few months later to apologize, after a great number of customers dropped the company. One reason why customers got so upset was that they did not understand why this was happening and, surprise, they didn’t like what was happening. We have to wonder, why did it take months for Netflix to apologize?
Another recent example of a PR crisis is the Penn State scandal. Of course, this is no small scandal, so more than ever it needed to be addressed immediately. Yet, Penn State cancelled a press conference after the news broke.
The number one rule when it comes to crisis communication is this: Always communicate to the public immediately and honestly; transparency is key—this can be said for both the Penn State case and the Netflix case. People become angrier when they don’t know what is going on and don’t know what is true and what is false. Once the media and public grab hold of an idea, it can be extremely hard to convince them of the real truth if you wait days, weeks or months to share it. So let it be your words, not theirs!
Even if you are at fault, a public, heartfelt apology goes a long way. It is of utmost importance to communicate with the public your sense of sorrow and remorse and what you are doing to change things for the better. This will help you to move forward and work on rebuilding your image. While not all crisis PR problems are this bad, every brand should have a plan in place just in case the time comes. As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry!