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The 21st century Marketing professional has a central role in mitigating corporate reputation disasters.

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Every now and then a major business is impacted by a significant event. In most cases the timing of such an event cannot be predicted but the types of events can. Any mobile phone company could be hit by an outage, any company involved in software could be hit by hacking, any food company could be hit by contamination issues and any car company hit by product failures and the need to recall.
So whilst the timing cannot be predicted the subsequent actions, attitudes and language used to handle the impact of the significant event could be planned for so when it comes to the day of the unplanned event all parties know how to behave and what action to take. As Marketers we believe we have a strong sense of ownership in the customer relationship. Relationships often take time to foster so we should want to ensure we are able to influence anything that is likely to damage the relationship.
RIM’s handling of the outage impacting Blackberry handsets showed it did not have a plan in place. Instead it dithered as to what sort of compensation it may or may not give customers. To quote from Reuters:
When Balsillie [RIM co-CEO] was asked about it, he said:
“That is something we are now turning our attention to and that is something that we plan to come back to these customers on very, very soon.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/13/us-blackberry-idUSTRE79B24Y20111013
It was not thinking about short-term action to ensure long-term survival. RIM should be concerned about the impact on new sales but probably more importantly on existing customers who are in a position to switch.
The cause of the outage has also been blamed on poor investment in the infrastructure as the company grew. As Marketers are we not responsible for ensuring that long-term growth plans can be supported by existing or future resource requirements? Otherwise it is like blowing up a balloon only to wait for it to burst!
The News of the World faced a different sort of disaster. The root of this disaster lies in the very essence of what the brand stood for and how it behaved. It thrived on scandal and died by scandal. Do marketers reading this article think News International were a marketing oriented company? They may have believed they were giving readers what they wanted to hear but 21st century Marketing is not just about being consumer oriented. It is about building sustainable strategies that react to and move with the times, marketers have a certain responsibility. Companies like Diageo have codes of ethics about how they promote their products in the context of drinking responsibly. It is pretty clear that NOTW did not have or at least did not adhere to a set of defined ethical standards. As more and more companies adopt Corporate Social Responsibility strategies they need to look at the core culture of their business to ensure the mistakes made by NOTW are not replicated in their own companies.
There would be a public outcry if a hospital did not have a disaster plan it could implement should it be close to a major incident. Why do businesses think they are immune? Marketers can lead by reviewing potential disasters, assessing their likelihood and outlining a plan of action. There is ample academic work highlighting increased loyalty from customers who complain and have their complaint resolved, so there is good reason to ensure strategies are in place when disaster hits a broader group of customers. The consequences of not having a plan in place can be fatal. The consequences of a less than moral culture can also be fatal. NOTW RIP.

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Written by petersfuture

December 8, 2011 at 11:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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