Crises don’t wait for your organization to be established for 20 years. All young companies experience growing pains, and sometimes they face a potentially game-changing moment early on, one that could stall or stop the trajectory toward success. In this post, Jon Harmon – Bernstein Crisis Management team member, and founder of Jon F. Harmon Strategic Communications – looks at one such situation that impacted emerging pet provider Wag, and how they conquered a potential crisis management nightmare.
When a sudden event threatens your company, step up like Wag
What do you do if you’re a five-year-old company suddenly faced with an existential crisis—that is, an unexpected event that threatens the very future of your business?
If you are dog-walking service provider Wag and one of your independent contractor dog walkers has kidnapped the dog he was supposed to be protecting, and the Internet is beginning to light up, you pull all the stops to make things right. And then emerge with an even stronger brand.
Two days ago, a New York couple contracted Wag to walk their dog, Benny, as they had done many times before with good results. But this time the dog walker from Wag abruptly had to cancel, so the company sent a second walker. When he arrived at the Troper’s apartment, he discovered that Benny was missing. Wag called the couple who frantically contacted the police. Surveillance video showed an intruder keying in the code to the apartment and then stealing their dog.
“Someone walked into our apartment with the intent to take him, just him, no other valuables,” Max Troper said. No one besides the Tropers and Wag had the code to the apartment, so suspicion quickly centered on the dog walker who had canceled.
At this point, things looked bleak for Wag, a fast-growing app-based company that unofficially aspires to be “the Uber for dogs.” Oh, and I should mention that the Tropers are pretty obsessive about their dog; in fact, Bennie has his own Instagram page. So this insider dog-napping case was quickly going viral.
Facing a tsunami of public anger if the situation was allowed to fester, what did Wag do?
- Assure the Tropers that they would do everything possible to find Benny.
- Immediately hire a private investigator to work with the NYPD to track down the rogue contractor and rescue Benny.
- Have actress Olivia Munn, a prominent investor in Wag, message the couple expressing her support.
And say all the right things to the media every step of the way:
- Asked to explain their hiring process for their dog walkers: Wag told the CBS New York affiliate that all their applicants are screened through a background check and also have to complete an online test covering dog safety.
- But the company’s main message was its desire to help bring home Benny safely, confirming to media it had hired a private investigator to assist police and was fully cooperating with the NYPD.
- When Benny was back home safe, Wag dog-walked the fine line of taking responsibility while pointing out its existing safety measures, thanking the police for their swift action, and then stepping back to let the story with the happy ending center on Benny and the Tropers. On Good Morning America this morning, Wag provided this statement:
“Every walk on the Wag crisis! platform is insured and backed by the full support of our Trust and Safety team, which means in the extremely rare case of an incident, we are committed to working directly with the pet parent and the appropriate law enforcement agency.”
This post was originally published on the Jon F. Harmon Strategic Comms Blog. Click here to read more from Jon!