Adding To The Noise

A critical view of new media, new technology and new marketing.

GM Recall Recalls Past PR Crises

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General Motors announced Tuesday that it was recalling about 1.5 million vehicles worldwide to address a problem with a heated windshield wiper fluid system that could lead to a fire. This seems like the latest in a rash of corporate blunders that calls for some serious crisis management. Other recent PR events include BP and Toyota.

Public Relations can have a big influence on a client’s public image. To illustrated I will bring up two cases where a crisis was handled properly and not properly. In 1989, Exxon faced a crisis when it spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Exxon waited a long time before responding. An ad ran in the newspapers 10 days after the spill and Exxon’s chairman did not fly to Alaska until two weeks after the spill. Exxon’s spokesman first answered the press with “no comment” after the spill taking credibility away from the company and the company never took responsibility for what happened. Even 10 years after the spill people were still boycotting Exxon gas.

On the other hand Tylenol handled their crisis with good PR tactics. In 1982, Tylenol, the leading pain-killer medicine in the United States faced a tremendous crisis when seven people in Chicago were reported dead after taking extra-strength Tylenol capsules. Unlike Exxon, Johnson & Johnson immediately recalled its product and made public announcements about the suspension of its usage through various media outlets. Even though it was proven 
that Tylenol was not associated with the tampering it still immediately assumed responsibility. Johnson & Johnson completely recovered its market share lost during the crisis and reestablish the Tylenol brand as one to the must trusted consumer products in American.

Which way will GM choose in this PR crisis?

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Author: Keith A. Quesenberry

Marketing Professor with Industry Experience

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