First, let me say that Mattel seems to be handling the potentially organization-threatening recalls and reputation damage very well. And their response seems like the well rehearsed response of messaging, key executive media training, and crisis management response that many of us in this business have been advocating for a long time. Get your CEO out there. Tell the truth, even when it hurts the worst. Be the bearer of bad news yourself. Accept responsibility. Personalize your pain. Tell what you are going to do about it so the problem doesn’t happen again.
The letter from CEO Eckert starts: Dear Fellow Parents. That’s good. Make common cause with your most important customers and those most concerned–and personalize. Which is exactly how he starts the video.
Video–yes, with CEO Eckert carrying all the key messages.
Key message Q&A–short, precise, to the point.
Web site and search–I could quickly find (about 6 down) the important message from Mattel about safety with a web page that took me directly to the information–which means it doesn’t have to clutter their existing site, but also avoids them looking like they are oblivious or it doesn’t matter.
Pretty text book I say. We will see how it plays out longer term. What I am seeing though is that there have been an increasing number of companies and organizations in crisis that seem to have it figured out. So much that now there emerges another problem. When does it start to look like it is too practiced, too routine, too slick? Not sure, but I expect there to start to be snide comments from media commentators about this kind of schtick–in fact, I heard one comment about “the normal round of mea culpas,” so I think it is starting. The question is–if you can’t do this and protect your reputation, what do you do?
One more thing. Lead poisoning is no doubt a great concern and parents ought to be alarmed. But some of the expert doctors suggesting almost that if your child had any contact with a Mattel toy need to get in and get tested seems overkill. The media loves to scare, no doubt about that as John Stossel effectively pointed out a while back on 20/20. How about some useful information now about the level of lead necessary to trigger brain damage and just how much of one of those toys would someone have to suck down in order to accumulate that much lead. That would be useful and might work to relieve some worried minds–including those at Mattel, whose CEO is a parent too.