Anti-Bimbos

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    Outstanding examples of good crisis management

    The primary goal of Merrie Spaeth’s “Bimbo Awards” is to give a humorous look at crisis communications gone wrong. Occasionally, though, Spaeth picks out a few examples that stand in stark contrast to her usual fare – those who got things right. Here’s a sample, from her “Bimbo of the Year” list:

    A passenger on a Virgin Air flight wrote a humorous and illustrated letter of complaint regarding food he was served on a flight. It generated a personal response from CEO Sir Richard Branson who invited him to help select meals for the airline in the future. Another example of how important it is to respond quickly, to have a conversational and humane tone, and to use humor. If communication is to be a strategic tool for business, this is a good example of how to handle complaints. Telegraph, “Virgin complaint letter: Author of Virgin letter offered chance as airline’s food tester,” Jan. 28, 2010

    Another good example is how Walmart reacted when an announcement over their loud speaker in a New Jersey store ordered all black people to leave. Predictably, shoppers were horrified, angry, and word spread quickly. Rather than wait to find out what had happened, Walmart immediately apologized saying it was unacceptable, and pledged to find out what had happened and share whatever they found with the public. A 16-year-old boy was discovered to have commandeered one of the courtesy phones. This is how a company has to react in this day of instant news, even before it knows all the facts. The county prosecutor “praised the company for their strong cooperation in the investigation,” and the NAACP, which has been critical of Walmart in the past, weighed in to say that the company has worked hard to show it cares about diversity. (The moral: even bad news can be a platform for positive news). MSNBC, “Police: Boy, 16, made racial comment at NJ Walmart,” March 20, 2010

    While these two cases took different approaches to these negative incidents, the constant was direct, honest and public communication. As a result, both came out with improved reputations and a bundle of free publicity.

    Want to see the winners and more honorable mentions from this year’s BIMBOs? Check out my HuffPost blog!

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]