When last month’s “Communicator of the Year” can turn into this month’s PR disaster, there’s a lesson for any brand on the perils of flubbing a corporate apology. Any brand can go from hero to zero.
Much has been written in the last week about the missteps of United and its CEO. Given that it was PRWeek that so recently awarded Oscar Munoz as “Communicator of the Year”, I thought the PRWeek postmortem was particularly interesting:
“No company or brand can rest on its laurels when it comes to its reputation. Protecting and enhancing it is a 24/7, 365 days a year undertaking.
“Communication, especially in a service business such as an airline, starts with every member of staff that interacts with the public. You earn your reputational chops every day, from the CEO down.
“CEOs and companies have to engage their consumers from a customer-service standpoint. As United – and PRWeek – is finding out, social media is always-on and unforgiving.
“Reputational risk is a huge concern for modern enterprises and relates to the value of a brand or company just as much legal and liability risk — lawyers cannot be the first line of a communications defense.”
I agree with PRWeek that brand reputation trumps liability risk. Yet I think what trumps both is just being human. In the mother of all brand crises, the 1982 Tylenol poisoning, J&J went above and beyond, not because they wanted to preserve their brand’s reputation, but because they wanted to ensure public safety first. The brand’s reputation was ultimately preserved as a byproduct of doing the right thing, not the reason for doing the right thing.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years.
“The 5 Stages of a PR Disaster” February 2012
“We Appreciate your Business” August 2012
“Corporate Apologies” September 2012
“Brand Reputation” October 2015