Sunday, November 4, 2012

Is it too late to say I'm sorry?

Timing is everything in the world of public relations.  The need to juggle multiple priorities, deadlines and budgets for a client may tempt a PR practitioner to immediately create a to-do list. This is a common mistake but it is also a grave one.

Test, test, test….Is anybody listening? 

Companies tend to think they already understand the needs of their customer but do they take the time to assess and re-assess their needs on a regular basis? If not,how can they be confident their communication tactics will be effective? 

"The goals of communication are to inform, persuade, motivate, or achieve mutual understanding," therefore a clear understanding of your publics is primordial.  Once you've determined your audience's needs, you can better craft key messages that will grab their attention and enable you to truly engage with them.

Without having done the back work, it is very unlikely that the dissemination of your key messages will go smoothly.  A major PR faux pas is being out of touch with your audience. “People want to be entertained, informed or alerted to opportunities that can fulfill their needs.”1 Today’s consumers are quite  savvy and can quickly detect a message that is not authentic.  Even worse, they may ignore it.

A botched campaign is not only detrimental to one’s career but you’ll also be left to deal with one angry client.

Netflix: How to lose and alienate customers

Netflix’s PR blunder stemmed from an overconfident CEO who stopped listening to his customers and disregarded their needs.In July 2011, Netflix announced to its customers that they would be increasing their prices in addition to separating its DVDs and unlimited streaming services.

Price hikes are not unusual but in Netflix's case, they failed to explain why they implemented the price hike ? What did this mean for their current or future customers?  What was their strategy? 

The bottom line was : Customers would now be paying more for less.

Netflix may have thought that masking the reason for their price hike through euphemisms would play in their favor but it did quite the opposite. Customers were infuriated and didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts online. Within minutes, Netflix was trending as #FAIL on Twitter and was being slammed all over the blogosphere.

Don't forget to throw in an insincere apology

Netflix chose to stay silent amidst receiving thousands of complaints. In a crisis management situation, listening and responding to your customers’ needs is key.

To make matters worse, when Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, finally decided to respond, his apologize was insincere and he did not address the price hike issue. In fact, he took the opportunity to unveil Qwikster, their sister company who would manage their DVDs by mail. Customers would now be forced to log in to Qwikster and Netflix separately.  

This was not exactly a more convenient way for customers to access their services. Can anyone say #FAIL?

Let us not forget that the owner of the Twitter handle @Qwikster was an avid marijuana consumer and loved to integrate sexual innuendos into his tweets. Netflix may need a refresher course on the importance of research.

Needless to say, Qwikster was abandoned and Mr. Hastings admitted he tried to move forward too quickly. In the end, their lack of transparency and strategy resulted in the loss of “800,000 subscribers, its stock price dropped 77 percent in four months, and management's reputation was battered,” as reported by CNET.

This is a perfect example of what not to do when re-branding. It is evident that Netflix hadn’t done the back work. Ultimately, they alienated their clients and they ended up paying the price.

#be honest, be transparent and be timely.

Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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