In 1982, Johnson & Johnson created a model for handling modern corporate crises after seven people were died from the presence of cyanide in capsules of Tylenol:
- Don’t delay
- Be transparent
- Be accountable
They acted immediately, took responsibility, recalled any bottles that could’ve been affected – and even scheduled media interviews to explain their response and the course of action they were taking to address the issue.
It’s never easy for a company’s leadership to admit they made a mistake, but most of the time, it’s the first step to fixing a huge corporate mishap that could’ve potentially taken the business under.
Other companies applied the lessons learned from Johnson & Johnson in the ‘80s and implemented their strategy of honesty and accountability into their own crisis communication plans. Pepsi, JetBlue and Apple are among them – all companies that have had recovered from blunders in a quick and effective manner.
Some corporations think that when something goes wrong, it’s best to remain silent – when, in reality it’s the wrong move. The public is waiting for an official response.
In April, Facebook has been dealing with a major corporate crisis. Cambridge Analytica, a voter profiling company based overseas, collected data on more than 50 million Facebook users without authorization. Facebook didn’t conduct its own investigation on the breach, instead attempting to stay ahead of the curve by stating in a blog post that it was suspending the company from its site. Leadership directed all blame towards Cambridge Analytica instead of noting systematic problems within Facebook’s business practices.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have also been absent from the narrative, even though lawyers and other officials in the U.S. and U.K. have requested their presence.
Facebook is dodging transparency and even Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer, is planning to leave the company in August after his push for more accountability was quashed by leadership.
This is a learning moment for the PR industry. Facebook’s anemic response has already cost it a 12 percent drop in stock and a building mistrust within the user community.
For a company that preaches a “People First” mantra, it seemly fail to understand what it actually means.