Here’s a text book case in crisis management. The fact that it is not much of a reputation crisis is in my opinion is due to the rapid and effective management of the issue by Apple.
A few weeks ago a sensationalist UK Newspaper, The Mail, reported on harsh living and working conditions at a plant in China where Apple makes iPods. Apple responded by launching an audit of the factory to see if it met Apple’s standards for labor as published in its Supplier Code of Conduct. Apple then published the findings including a detailed record of what it found, including violations of the code related to how long some employees were working. It then aggressively distributed the findings via the mainstream media, and posted the findings prominently on its website under Hot News. I found the story via Newsvine, a news aggregator.
What did Apple do right?
– It moved fast
– It acted–initiating an audit
– It admitted problems even while discounting the exaggerations of the press report
– It identified how it is going to fix the problems
– It acted to use a respected third party (Veritas) to continue to audit and assure performance to standards
– It had a set of standards previously established and referenced those as the guide to evaluating performance
– It posted the results, even those admitting problems, very publicly and prominently on its website
– It distributed its findings via the MSM, discounting the worry that by doing so they may increase the visibility of the story
– Without stating directly in any way, they encouraged objective observers to make a judgment as to who was more credible: Apple or The Mail
For those seeking to learn how to deal with a potentially devastating but still smoldering reputation crisis, this example is hard to beat.