Earlier this autumn we saw the pharmaceutical industry hit the headlines. Packets of Nurofen Plus were recalled off the shelves amid fears that they had been sabotaged with an antipsychotic drug found in schizophrenia medicine. A formal police investigation was launched when the Seroquel tablets were found inside Nurofen Plus packets. Contaminated products were first discovered in Boots stores in Victoria, Bromley and Beckenham in London. At least 250,000 packets were expected to be recalled and yet consumers heading to the company’s website were faced with very little information on what to do. The Twitter and Facebook pages of Nurofen and manufacturers Reckitt Benckiser, also kept customers in the dark as the rumors of sabotage spread.
As Ayesha Bharmal, Associate director, Fishburn Hedges says “silence is never golden in a crisis”. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society appeared to be more on the ball than the company itself. Neal Patel, head of corporate communications, gave a reassuring response on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme “so far there is absolutely no indication of malicious intent. We know it’s not the manufacturing sites. They’ve checked the manufacturers and there’s no problem there. So it looks like it’s further down the supply chain – so something to do with warehousing and distribution”.
It’s a crisis like this that can break a company if dealt with unprofessionally, in the wrong way or if left and ignored completely. You can’t always stop mistakes happening in business but the way you handle the immediate fallout can be crucial. If the media are likely to become involved as a result timing is even more of the essence as a story can be around the world in seconds. Simple steps can be put in place to limit the damage to a company. Media crisis training does just this. It is designed to prepare you for the worst case scenario depending on your type of business and courses are tailored to be relevant to you. After attending one of our courses you can be confident that you have the knowledge and skills to effectively manage whatever crisis your business might face.
After all, take a recent unfortunate event involving WH Smith, who learnt the importance of social media the hard way. A Tweeter in Leamington Spa decided to share a photograph with the world one weekend. The picture seemed to show that the shop had moved it’s publications of Gay Times and Attitude in a apparent homophobic whim in order to keep them shamefully hidden. The image was then retweeted all weekend long by outraged consumers, while the WH Smith Twitter account remained unstaffed. Of course by Monday when the retailer issued a statement explaining the reason for moving the magazines was not motivated by homophobic beliefs, it was too little too late. Although social media is an extremely beneficial way of interacting with consumers, WH Smith’s experience is a prime example of the pitfalls business’ can be faced with if not used properly.
If you’re not sure how you’d react to an angry customer or client in 140 characters, Tweet us @Bluewoodtrain.
Written by Megan – www.bluewoodtraining.com – October 2011
It’s been another week or two of scandal and crisis (is this what we are doomed to read in our papers every week now?). Defence secretary Liam Fox decided to step down after he came under fire for his relationship with Adam Werritty, Philips are due to shed 4,500 jobs after a sharp drop in profits and BlackBerry’s email and text services went down, day after day.
With so many people reliant on their BlackBerry to keep in touch with friends or family and keep their business running, a three day communication outage is far too long (Alan Sugar tweeted: “In all my years in IT biz, I have never seen such a outage as experienced by BlackBerry. I can’t understand why it’s taking so long to fix.”). To make matters worse for BlackBerry this happened the same week that Apple brought out the new iPhone 4s – if frustrated, out of touch, BlackBerry users needed another excuse to switch manufacturer this was probably enough to do it.
However, it seemed much of the anger towards BlackBerry was due to the lack of information and customer service – people joked the company had emailed a response to peoples’ handsets. This is not uncommon these days, people know that IT, rail, electricity etc systems can go down from time to time but what they hate is companies/organisations who seem incapable of letting customers know what the issue is and what is being done to fix it. Businesses now use various different channels to contact their customers whether it’s by phone, email, text or Twitter, so consumers know that a company has no excuse not to keep them reasonably informed as to what’s going on.
I wouldn’t normally agree with anything Alastair Campbell said, but we have to admit that he ought to know a thing or two about handling a crisis. After a frustrating few days with his phone on the blink Campbell tweeted: “Day 3 of BlackBerry black-out. Some free advice. Explain while you fix. Apologise when you have. Recompense after. Handling so far woeful.” Of course Campbell isn’t the first to have said this but that makes it no less relevant in this case.
BlackBerry have now offered users $100 of free apps by way of recompense and obviously apologised to their customers as well. But how much this crisis will end up damaging their business is hard to tell. Some argue that the damage had already been done by the time they apologised; not keeping your customers in touch (particularly when you are in the telecoms industry) and up to date about the problems can make them feel forgotten or worse – and it’s this damage which can’t be fixed with a few free apps because while people will forget about their phone not working for a few days they may not forget if they feel a business treated them badly.
While Cameron and the Tories came under some criticism for handling the Liam Fox scandal badly, they did at least come out straight away and promise a full report into what happened (this obviously buys them some time internally to deal with the issue while they await the findings), once the report started doing some digging, it was clear that Fox would probably have to go.
Handling a crisis is never going to be an easy exercise for businesses and organisations and avoiding all damage is very tricky but the key is in how you deal with the crisis – while it’s happening – that counts for your customers and stakeholders.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.com – October 2011