Joe Degand: Exploding phones and dealing with a PR crisis

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Samsung’s been in hot water over the past two months for its newest hybrid phone/tablet, the Galaxy Note 7, having a bit of a glitch to it – they spontaneously combust.

First reports of a Note 7 explosion came in on August 24, just three weeks after the phone was unveiled. From there, things spiraled for the South Korean tech company with even more reports coming in about exploding phones.

To fix the situation, Samsung issued a worldwide recall of 2.5 million of the phones, exchanging them for new ones supposed to have a non-faulty battery.

To keep it brief, the new phones continued catching fire and airlines around the globe banned Note 7s from being taken onboard flights. As a result, Samsung discontinued production and sales of the Note 7.

Samsung’s exploding phone saga is expected to cost the company nearly £20 billion – and as if that wasn’t enough, the firm’s brand has taken a tremendous blow with many consumers left scared and with a bad taste in their mouth as a result of the situation.

Samsung has some serious brand re-building to do over the next few months, but the company is extremely good at marketing its smartphones, so should walk away from the situation unscathed in the end, despite being billions of pounds lighter in the wallet.

One thing that can be taken away from the situation is that a Note 7-type crisis could happen to any business at any time, so it’s important to be prepared if the time comes to do some PR firefighting.

With that said, here are some quick tips on how to manage a crisis situation similar to Samsung’s:

Act quickly

In Samsung’s case, issuing a recall on the Galaxy Note 7 was the most important course of action and was something they did within days of receiving several complaints. When the replacement phones continued catching fire, Samsung again reacted fast, discontinuing the product despite taking a huge financial hit.

Moving swiftly is key to showing people you care and that you want to solve a problem, no matter how big or how trivial it may be. So when a crisis occurs, determine the best course of action and implement it as soon as realistically possible.

Draft a statement

The key to writing an effective statement is to first acknowledge the situation and include the facts. Next, state what is being done to look into the issue. And remember: do not to include any information that isn’t 100% confirmed.

Once you’ve got a statement prepared, simply hold onto it and have it ready to use if and when a journalist gets in touch.

One final piece of advice:

There’s nothing that sounds worse than when a business ‘declined to comment’, so always do your best to face the situation and not hide from it. This will help rebuild trust with the public.

Switch to reactive PR for a period of time

In Samsung’s case, the company stopped posting promotional content on its UK Twitter page for several days once reports of its replacement phone having problems hit the news. Instead, it used the space to post its official statement, along with a warning about Note 7s being banned on airplanes and details on how to get a replacement phone.

Until things start to blow over, it’s best to keep quiet to allow people a ‘cooling off period’ except for issuing important statements or information about the crisis situation.

Let the negativity pass

As much as you might want to get in touch with every person making a joke, complaining or sharing cruel memes about your business’s crisis online, asking them to stop, you can’t. People have the right to be upset or amused with any blunders you make. The same goes for media.

But, like all things, time should heal all wounds – meaning, soon enough, some other event will eventually take the limelight off your company so that you can go back to trying to get things back to the status quo.

Now that you’ve read through some advice for managing a crisis situation like Samsung’s exploding Note 7 episode, crack on with offering customers the very best products and services possible, that way you never need to use the tips above!