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A Word About Commitments, Zigging and Zagging, and Zoom


[The following appeared as commentaries by Edward Segal in his weekly “Crisis Ahead” podcast. Watch previous episodes and subscribe to the podcast on YouTube at https://youtube.com/channel/UCwx26phRVnXdnnaJt71cqZw, Or listen to them at https://thecrisisaheadpodcast.podbean.com/]

Commitments

In the aftermath of riots and protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Mars Food said that it would remove the name and image that are on its packages of Uncle Ben’s rice. That name and image have been criticized for decades for helping to perpetuate racial stereotypes.

According to several news reports last week, Mars Food announced that Uncle Ben’s will be renamed Ben’s Original and that the current image on the package wILL be eliminated. Consumers will start seeing the new packaging in stores next year.

In a news release, the company said that “We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand, and as we announced in June, we have committed to change.”

Mars Food did the right thing when it announced it would drop the offensive name and logo. And they did the right thing again last week when they made good on that commitment.

Companies that make promises they can’t or will not keep run the risk of damaging their credibility and helping to prolong a crisis. Keep that in mind when you or your organization says it will do something about —- well, anything.

Zigging and Zagging

When dealing with a any crisis, it’s always best to send a clear and consistent message about the crisis. That was hardly the case recently with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention apparently changed its mind — again — about what people should or should not do about the pandemic.

Since there is now no telling what the CDC may say or do next — or why — I won’t get into the details here about their latest policy reversal. No matter when you read this blog post, be sure to check with trusted health officials about the steps you should take to protect yourself against COVID-19.

In college football the Big 10 conference decided in August to postpone its fall sports season — until it decided last month NOT to postpone the season. The Big 10 said that all 14 teams would play eight regular season games. While the reversal of its original decision made football players and fans happy, it was another example of an organization zigging and zagging in a crisis.

What playbook does your organization have for dealing with the coronavirus crisis — or any crisis?

Zoom

For a company that so many have come to depend on in the coronavirus crisis, it was ironic when the company had to deal with their own crisis situations.

A security issue allowed unauthorized individuals to join Zoom meetings — or what’s known as zoombombing. The company said it took steps to help address and prevent this form of cyber attack. Later, the Zoom platform crashed, causing a crisis for schools, colleges, and businesses who have grown to depend on the technology during the pandemic.

In any crisis it is important to keep people informed about the situation and what you are doing or will do to address it. That’s what Zoom did when it announced they had received reports that their services crashed and people could not use the platform. The company said they were investigating the problem, would provide updates, and apologized for any inconvenience.

Some businesses, such as Weight Watchers and Bird, an e-scooter company, have been criticized for how they have used Zoom to tell employees that, because of the pandemic, they were being fired.

Before your organization has a crisis, you should include in your crisis management plan how, when, and why you will use Zoom and other tools to communicate with your employees and other audiences about situation. Don’t wait until you have a crisis to figure out what you will do, when you will do it, how you will do it, and who will do it.