Deborah Brown, Partner & CMO, Peppercomm
In the wake of the memo that was leaked to CNN discussing Uber’s Special Investigations Unit, riders may feel that Uber is not taking their safety as seriously as the company says it does. Uber has taken the first step in the right direction by responding to CNN, but it needs to do more.
Uber has been doing some good work as it pertains to safety, and the company should consider developing a campaign that focuses exclusively on safety, underscoring what it is doing today and new safety measures it plans to add tomorrow. While this information is on the company’s website, in an app-based world Uber should not expect riders to go to its site.
Concurrently as part of the same campaign, the company needs to be transparent about how it can improve and what changes it has made or is in the process of making. It cannot ignore the leaked memo nor become defensive. The campaign will only work if it’s authentic; otherwise, it will backfire and create a bigger crisis.
Uber has to gain – or regain – trust, quickly.
There are two separate issues at play here, although they are intertwined. First, Uber has incorporated technologies and partnerships to help riders feel safer when entering an Uber car. For example, Uber states it has annual background checks on drivers plus is notified if a driver is charged with a new offense, provides a feature that does not allow a driver to continue picking up passengers for six hours once he/she has been on the road for 12 hours, shares a passenger’s ride with friends or family members to make sure he/she gets to the destination safely, and includes an emergency button that sends information to the local police.
Second, the report that was leaked, can certainly unnerve riders – from the 1200 reported incidents weekly to the alleged turmoil at the Special Investigations Unit. Although Uber has made and continues to make good strides in safety, the report certainly undermines its efforts.
Uber also needs to show data. According to news reports, the company says that data is supposed to be released sometime this year. Depending on what the data shows, Uber may need to demonstrate what else it’s changing to reduce incidents or may be able to say that, while more needs to be done, they are making strides in reducing incidents.
Uber needs to be in the driver’s seat and be proactive about its safety features while also stating where and how it is making significant improvements. And, most of all, the company must be genuine in its messaging so that passengers don’t put on the brakes.
About the Author: Deborah Brown is a partner and CMO for Peppercomm, a leading communications and marketing agency headquartered in New York, with offices in San Francisco and London. The firm combines 24 award-winning years of expertise serving blue chip and breakout clients with forward-thinking new service offerings and the freshness of a start-up. One new service offering is StandSmartTM, which helps companies determine when and how to take a stand on a societal issue and includes an analytics tool that acts as an early warning system on topics of concern.