Bad Crisis Communications Hurts Electronics Manufacturer

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    Communication is important in a crisis, but say the wrong thing and it can quickly backfire

    Foxconn, the Taiwan-based manufacturer of devices for Dell, Apple, and several other high-end electronics companies, has been facing criticism and protests following the ninth worker suicide at its southern Chinese factory. The company has been failing spectacularly at crisis management efforts, choosing primarily to dodge critics rather than engage and respond, and issuing canned statements that do more harm than good. Here’s one example of a particularly damaging quote, from a Communicate Magazine article:

    In the case of Foxconn, bad crisis communications spectacularly. In a now much-criticized rearguard action, Foxconn quickly tried to paint itself in a positive light, pointing out it is overwhelmed by applicants when it announces vacancies. “We are certainly not running a sweatshop,” Foxconn chairman Terry Gou said.

    A common mistake organizations make during crisis communications is to use the very labels they seek to avoid in defending themselves. Of course, the first thing reporters seeking a good headline will see is the word “sweatshop” in the chairman’s reply, which they will proceed to gleefully misquote in the quest for increased readership. Don’t place a negative connotation upon yourself, avoid these trouble terms and you can dodge the pitfall that Foxconn has fallen into.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]