One of the most poignant and powerful comments I’ve received since doing this blog landed today. It is from Mary Ann who was a passenger on the Greek cruise ship Sea Diamond. Her comment.
The anger against the companies involved is growing–the only recourse seems the court. Their offers and communications indicated–according to my commenters anyway–that they are far more concerned about protecting themselves financially in court than protecting their reputation. They probably don’t give a darn and maybe are planning for bankruptcy anyway. But this stuff hurts the whole industry as I indicated before.
The most relevant point for crisis communicators is that this story lives on. Months after the event, here I am blogging about it. People like Mary Ann are using these opportunities to tell their story. Sure, the media is off onto other stories, but their role these days is more to get the conversation started and then move on. It is the conversation that ought to concern companies like Louis Cruise Lines. The online record is created and is built, and there is no involvement in the conversation.
That’s why I was so impressed with Dell the other day. I blogged about their Dell Hell problems and immediately got a comment back from a Dell representative that explained how they are dealing with it. Dell gets it. Louis does not.
Well, I have to say I am impressed. This morning I asked the question of crisisblogger readers what you would say to Dell about how to overcome the media’s fascination with calling every problem that Dell faces Dell Hell. A couple of interesting responses, including one directly from Dell talking about how they are dealing with it.
Some companies get it. The conversation online goes on, and when they are involved they participate. Thank you, Dell. Very impressed.
I’ve been pondering lately the question of the real role of reputations in corporate and organizational success. It’s always good to evaluate the basic tenets of your beliefs once in a while. I think the questions emerged while boating through Prince William Sound and wondering how a company who had been so damaged or broken by a disaster of that magnitude could now be so successful and admired–if not in the public eye, then at least in the industry and the financial community.
This story about Bausch & Lomb being sold to a private equity firm helps re-establish my confidence in the idea that reputations do matter. The company had a problem of uncertain origins with their contact solution. The product was recalled but confidence in the company was not maintained during that event. Now, they are selling in part, according to this story to be able to deal with the consequences of their loss of consumer confidence without being under the scrutiny of investors.
And, if you opened up the link above you could not help see the headline and story about “Dell Hell” again. Poor Michael. He could not have realized that his perfectly simple and acceptable last name which seemed to work so well for a corporate giant has now been turned into a nightmare name by the fancy of headline writers–and bloggers. Here’s a good question for crisisblogger readers: how does a company like Dell get rid of the “Dell Hell” appellation when it is clearly so popular with headline writers. I mean it rhymes, it doesn’t take a lot of space, it grabs immediate attention, it says Oh boy, they are in trouble again. How do you get rid of that? Start a campaign that says “Dell is Well”? “Dell Haters go to Hell”? How about the Dell Smell? Or Dell Farewell?
The simple answer for companies like Dell or BP who have their reputations tarnished, fairly or unfairly, is to go about your business, do the best job you can, get better at operations than ever before and time heals all wounds. Again, Exxon may prove that point. But something tells me that something a little more striking and dramatic needs to take place in order to overcome the frustrating tendency of reporters (including now citizen journalists) to fall into the old routines and traps and keep the negativity going.
I just read an excellent white paper from Market Sentinel on the influence of blogging on corporate reputations. This company is located in the UK and provides web monitoring and blog tracking services. I found out about it (like so many other interesting items relevant to crisis communications) by getting Jonathan Bernstein’s Crisis Manager email newsletter.
The point that jumped out at me from the Market Sentinel white paper which focused on the Dell Hell blogwar, was how much was fed by one person. A blogger by the name of Jeff Jarvis got upset about his laptop and the service and, being one of the angry bloggers, went to town.
Those of us involved in these kinds of blogwars talk about the 57 million citizen journalists, and the numbers are impressive and scary to those concerned about reputation protection. But it only takes one to light a fire. Interesting and worthwhile read.