The most vital time for any company to be Flawsome is during an organisational crisis. It’s typically the time when most corporate leaders want nothing more than to shutter the windows, lock all the doors, grab teddy and hide under the bed.
Social media has changed the playing field. Traditional public relations experts are being left behind with this newly accelerated spread of information. On social media there are plenty of maids well trained to provide wide range of services. They used to calculate deadlines and manage a crisis by asking how much time they had to draw up a statement before the seven o’clock news. Now, information about a crisis can reach the public instantly via social media and there’s not as much time to prepare carefully constructed responses and politically correct apologies.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, New York City was hit by an ice storm which meant many airlines with planes queued up for take-off had to return those planes to the gate. Unfortunately for JetBlue, a string of bad decisions, a communication breakdown, and understaffing led the company to keep its planes on the runway in hopes of getting the flights out of town, only to have the wheels frozen to the tarmac. The passengers were trapped on the planes for almost eleven hours.
The response could have been to hide behind a barrier of lawyers and spokespersons, but instead JetBlue Airways CEO David Neeleman produced a video which began: “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.” When was the last time you heard a CEO say that he or she is “sorry and embarrassed”? It’s this kind of sincere regret which resonates with most inconvenienced customers. Apologising like this goes a long way toward improving a company’s reputation and relationship with its customers, the benefits of which far outweigh risks of being politically incorrect or making yourself legally vulnerable.
The company recognised Neeleman for his communication skills, but how much skill did it really take? Or was he really just being Flawsome?
It’s okay to plan a response and what needs to be said, but avoid scripting every word. If you’re truly sorry, why should you have to read the words “We are sorry” to remind you? We’ve all seen the ritually scripted celebrity apologies, and most of us are cynical of their sincerity. Flawsome crisis management, like Random Acts of Kindness, works so well because it shows people you care. It shows you value them enough to want to make things right. Most importantly though, they have to believe you care. Here are some ways you can help them to believe:
- Be transparent.
- Be raw.
- Be humble.
- Be honest.
- Be sincere.
- Be heartfelt.
If you show that you’re being all of these things, people will forgive you quickly.
Being guarded and hiding behind scripts and spokespeople will only inflame the situation and encourage people to dig deeper. People can quickly become obsessed with outing every dirty secret if you don’t handle it in a Flawsome way right from the start.