October 2nd, 2018

Here’s another look at the good, bad, and ugly ways companies have managed a crisis and the lessons to be learned from how they reacted to, handled, and communicated about the incidents. By keeping these lessons in mind, you can help ensure that there will be no reason for others to learn from your mistakes when your company is in the harsh glare of the public spotlight.

Twitter

    The Atlantic reported that “Twitter permanently banned Alex Jones, after the prominent conspiracy theorist violated the platform’s policies on abusive behavior by tweeting out a video of himself heckling the CNN reporter Oliver Darcy.”

    The company announced on Twitter that, “We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations.”

    Lesson: When your policies are violated or ignored, you need to take the appropriate steps to enforce them. If you don’t, your company will find itself with a lot of explaining to do.

Uber

    As reported by CNN in 2017, Uber admitted that it “paid hackers $100,000 after they stole data [in 2016] from 57 million of its users. The startup did not disclose the attack until [a year later], adding a potential cover up to a list of recent corporate controversies.

    Lesson: Waiting to tell the public bad news is never a good idea; trying to cover it up simply makes matters worse.

Starbucks

    Two black men were waiting for a colleague to arrive for a business meeting at a Starbucks in Philadelphia and hadn’t ordered anything at the counter. While they waited, they asked the white manager to use the bathroom. The manager then called the police and had the two men arrested when they refused to leave.

    In addition to issuing an apology, Starbucks fired the manager, negotiated a settlement with the two men, and closed all 8.000 stories to provide racial-bias training to employees. The company also announced a new policy that, according to TheGuardian.com,” …[allows] all guests to use the facilities in its coffee shops, including restrooms, regardless of their spending – unless they exhibit disruptive behavior including smoking, drug or alcohol use, improper use of bathrooms and sleeping.”

    Lesson: Sometimes you need to do more than just apologize in order to help make things right and ensure that a problem is not repeated.

Wells Fargo

    Wells Fargo mandated aggressive sales goals for 5,000 employees and pressured the workers into opening two million unauthorized accounts for customers. Wells Fargo later blamed the employees for opening the accounts.

    Lesson: Don’t blame others for what you did that caused the crisis.

Samsung

    Samsung said that a cord in its washing machines could become detached, and announced it was recalling millions of units of the product. People who owned the machines claimed that the problem was actually much worse and that some machines actually exploded and sounded as if a bomb had gone off. The company eventually recalled the machines.

    Lesson: Don’t downplay the facts or realities of a crisis.

Mandalay Bay

    The Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas is owned by an international conglomerate. In the aftermath of the mass shooting in that city, the hotel had to hire an outside public relations firm to deal with the media and PR-related issues.

    Lesson: Reach out for the assistance you need in a crisis. If an international organization needs to hire outside help, what does that say about your own state of readiness to handle an emergency?