Last December FedEx experienced its PR crisis of the year when a video went viral of a deliveryman arriving to a customer’s home with a package and threw it over the fence.
The customer had a surveillance camera outside their fence and incident was recorded. What would anyone do with that kind of footage? The answer is put it on YouTube. The customer put the short clip on the Internet and was seen by millions, and can still be seen today.
So what does FedEx do? They addressed the issue head on. They are recognized as solving one of the worst PR crises of 2011. FedEx took immediate action by apologizing to the customer and troubleshooting using social media.
FedEx created its own YouTube video to issue a statement of apology by the senior VP of FedEx Express U.S. Operations, Michael Thornton. He shared how the company fixed the problem with the customer and how FedEx will use the video in employee training so employees will know the correct and appropriate action to take when delivering packages.
“We hope that you, like the customer involved in this incident, will see it as an unfortunate exception that proves the rule that our company cares for its customers,” Thornton wrote.
Based on the YouTube video’s feedback, it was mostly positive. Customers and employees agreed with the actions that were taken and appreciated seeing a face to the company, and showing they care for their customers and only want to deliver the best customer service possible.
From a PR perspective FedEx did all the right things to control the aftermath of the situation. FedEx responded in a quick manner not allowing any spare time to pass. The company took the incident seriously and told the truth. They didn’t deny the deliveryman was a FedEx employee or that it never happened. They sincerely apologized to the customer and reimbursed them with a new computer. Bottom line: we all make mistakes, but it’s about how we recover from them.
The BP oil spill happened more than two years ago, and it’s still talked about today because it’s known as one of the largest oil spill disasters in the petroleum industry. But that’s not the only thing people are talking about.
BP is a well-known multinational oil and gas company and it is the fourth-largest company in the world. In the past 10 years, BP has had some unfortunate accidents with its oil rigs; in 2010 it looked like it would be no different.
The U.S. was shocked and appalled at how BP’s public relations handled the situation, or rather how they didn’t handle the situation. PR crisis communications is supposed to fix impending problems, not create more. This situation has gone down in history as one of the worst examples of a public relations response to a national crisis.
In April 2010 an oil rig exploded due to a blowout spill in the Gulf of Mexico and it caused havoc among U.S. citizens. The accident killed 11 workers and extensively harmed marine animals and wildlife. BP’s CEO Tony Hayward was in no way prepared to respond or comfort the public in their time of need, and as a result the U.S. was infuriated and lashed out.
Here’s what BP did wrong:
- BP chose to avoid confrontation with the public, and disabled negative comments about the crisis on its’ Facebook page and YouTube channel.
- Hayward downplayed the extent of the accident. In an interview Hayward said the impact of spill on the environment would be “very, very modest.”
- Hayward elected himself as the official spokesperson rather than choosing the VP of communications or another leader in BP. A news article reported Hayward was “ineffective and awkward in TV interviews.”
BP and Hayward’s PR strategies were so off point. They blocked all opinions from the public and didn’t provide a real solution to the problem or comfort the public. It would have been a better idea to let the public express their thoughts and opinions and listen to what they have to say.
Engage and interact with your audiences. Ignoring them only makes you look unfavorable. Hayward shouldn’t have been the spokesperson because he didn’t know what to say to the media. The spokesperson should’ve been the VP of communication or another leader in BP.
Lastly, be honest. Don’t lie to the public about the problem; it’ll only make the situation worse, especially when you are downplaying the impact of the problem. Tell the public what has happened and what you’re going to do to fix it.
How do you think BP handled the situation? What suggestions would provide them as a PR professional?