The jaded public may be surprised to learn that “transparency” truly is a top priority for corporate communications professionals. We have preached it to our colleagues and clients and we have practiced it with the media and their audiences. Now, we also have direct access to those audiences – consumers, investors, partners and other key constituents – and not only do they expect a flow of valid, relevant information and conversation, they demand it. They demand it because overall trust and confidence has been shaken by turbulent economic, political and social times and relationships with companies, brands and spokespeople are becoming more intimate.
Video is the most transparent and intimate medium of all and savvy communicators use it well, especially in times of crisis when an explanation or apology is expected promptly. When a corporation makes a mistake we want its CEO to look us in the ‘eye’ and tell us what happened and what is being done to make things better.
You can run then hide behind a written statement but inevitably you will lose public confidence if you don’t address the issue on TV and or the web. Ask Mr. Corzine, who’s story is still being written (but he has not been seen). Of course, in his case it may not matter given the size of the crisis and surrounding circumstances. Afterall, video shines a light on your message. It does not change the facts … or your executive’s ability to connect with an audience.
These are a few mea culpas that caught my attention the first time around and again as I revisited them in a recent Wall Street Journal article: How to Say You’re Sorry: 10 CEO YouTube Apologies:
Good: I remember this as the first time a corporation in crisis incorporated a YouTube video into it’s primary response. They were pioneers.
Bad: David Neeleman, CEO, never actually apologized.
Ugly: David Neeleman became ex-CEO 1 month later.
Good: Reed Hastings used the medium his customers prefer to deliver the message.
Bad: Poorly dressed guys sitting poolside is not the best way to relate to the value conscious, movie watching consumer in middle America.
Ugly: Apology loses effectiveness as he seems too slick and eager to make the whole mess go away by announcing plans to spin off Qwikster, which were quietly abandoned months later.
Good: Mike Lazaridis, CEO, directly and effectively conveys his apology, disappointment and commitment to make things better.
Bad: He is unable to answer concerned customers’ main question (When will service be restored?)
Ugly: Black shirt and white hair against white backdrop. Use a textured background or a real business environment.
Do you think any of these guys is sorry he apologized? Can you tell which ones were really sorry before they apologized?