The worst thing for any brand is to be associated in any shape or form with a tragedy. Recall the harm to the corporate image that both American Airlines and United Airlines suffered because the terrorists hijacked their planes on September 11, 2001. So imagine Sony right now as reports are coming out in the aftermath of the horrific attacks in Paris that ISIS terrorists are using Sony PlayStation 4’s to communicate with each other.
The events of last week in Paris have shocked the civilized world. The media, government leaders, intelligence agencies and the public have wondered how have the terrorists been able to communicate and evade capture. The Belgian Interior Minister first speculated that it was through Sony’s PlayStation 4. Intelligence agencies are also claiming the same. Sony’s PlayStation Network has some 65 million active users, and users have a multitude of ways they can communicate, including voice chat and text messages. Worst from a law enforcement standpoint as the clock ticks in catching the terrorists it is difficult to decrypt communication that is done via PlayStation 4.
So what should Sony do besides pray that the terrorists are using some other method to communicate?
1) It needs to state unequivocally and categorically that it will fully cooperate with authorities and turn over anything that can assist law enforcement in its pursuit of the terrorists.
The company’s initial statement fell short of that merely stating “We are dedicated to checking behavior and we urge our users and partners to report activities that may be offensive, suspicious or illegal. When we identify or are notified of such conduct and verify it, we are committed to reviewing it and taking appropriate action.”
No doubt the company was leery of offending libertarians who will raise a howl of Sony sharing personal information with law enforcement. The company will offend even more consumers by not coming out categorically and saying they are cooperating with law enforcement.
2) Condemn the terrorist attacks in Paris in the strongest possible way and offer contributions to relief funds that have been established.
3) Admit that there is the possibility that terrorists may have taken advantage of the communications systems.
4) Remind consumers through a public relations and advertising campaign what PlayStation 4 is supposed to be about – fun and gaming.
5) Promise that the company will work to tighten any aspects that not just terrorists but criminals can utilize from the game.
6) Focus on moving forward with holiday coverage.
Sony is going to suffer damage from any possible association the company’s PlayStation 4 with terrorists. It will suffer more by not being proactive in responding to the story and failing to cooperate fully with law enforcement.