When we advise international companies about issues management and crisis communications, preparation to achieve a quick and appropriate ‘right first time’ response is what you aim for. Every company experiences crises of one form or another – many are unavoidable and while measures can be taken to limit the avoidable ones, human errors are made, God acts, and not everyone’s motives are pure.
Situations where direct corporate or personal culpability is evident can have the biggest negative impact on organizations, as was the case reported by my colleague, Simon Jones, recently on the German motoring organization, ADAC.
As they say, reputations take decades to build and minutes to fall!
So as an ADAC member, when my copy of its magazine landed in my post box yesterday with the cover story –“Crisis as an Opportunity” – I was intrigued to read it (a rare occurrence as the only member of the household who is not a petrol head).
I have to say congratulations to the editorial team of Motorwelt (Motor World), if only for securing executive agreement to print such a frank and transparent overview of the scandal in which their organization had become so publicly embroiled, and use it to speak directly to members without being ‘economical with the truth.’
In my experience, this is a tough challenge under the glare of public spotlight when human nature, and a good dose of German conservatism, can convince business leaders that the best course of action is to stick your head in the sand until the problem goes away. According to the Motorwelt Editorial Team: “We want to give our readers an honest, balanced and clear overview about issues around mobility.”
The anticipated, well-worded and conciliatory interview with ADAC President Peter Meyer was there. But more poignant was the article entitled “Complete Breakdown” which reviewed the crisis, gave voice to members, and reminded readers sensitively of the great work that the majority of ADAC employees do every day.
Crisis is often defined as a dangerous opportunity, and the jury is still out as to whether ADAC can rebuild trust with members. For me, as with many members, the moment of truth comes when at 11 o’clock at night driving across Germany with a sleeping family in the car after a long-distance journey, the Yellow Angels – as the first-response breakdown team are known – comes to your aid when needed.
I won’t be resigning my membership anytime soon.