Handling PR disasters – a good PR job, and an inept PR counselor?

An interesting ´compare and contrast´case study from the LA Times of how two different companies handled emerging PR disasters: toymaker Mattel used a copybook PR disaster response (congrats to CEO Robert Eckert), while US financial services outfit Countrywide only succeeded in blotting theirs (could do better for Countrywide spokesman Rick Simon).
As the LA Times scribes wrote, “A crisis can happen to any business. But how a company responds offers a glimpse into how executives craft a corporate image and the way they want their firms to move beyond a setback.”

PR analysts and expert PR commentators looking at the cases reminded us that:
} Having a pre-prepared and rehearsed crisis plan is imperative
} How you respond to the issue is as important as the issue itself
} Working hard at communicating often wins brownie points with all your stakeholders
} Allocating the requisite comms resources to respond appropriately is a sound investment (Mattel had 16 fulltime PRs working the media telephones, for eg)
} Use a credible media spokesperson to accept responsibility and ´front up´ to the media
} Avoid a ´them and us´mentality – work with your media stakeholders
} Don´t just pray that it´ll all, magically, go away.
} And again, handling crises is about Responsibility, Regret and Remedia Action

2 thoughts on “Handling PR disasters – a good PR job, and an inept PR counselor?

  1. Mattel definitely acted quickly and had a PR plan to put in action – but the ongoing number of recalls raises an issue about the pre- and post-crisis element of strategic management at the company.

    There is clearly a need to look at the process of product design and management of the production process with suppliers – slick crisis PR won’t be able to keep maintaining a positive reputation if safety issues keep recurring.

    Responsibility starts much earlier than apologising via the media – let’s hope the PR counsel at Mattel is directed towards some high level strategic preventative action.


  2. Absolutely Heather, product design and quality control are potential PR issues-in-waiting. Tho with any profit enterprise, we must always expect (if not accept) inevitable cost losses from product malfunction.


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