Public relations can be awesome… when it’s good. It’s considered the most credible form of promotion and can dramatically impact consumer perceptions. But, it can also be negative… and, the way an organization handles the negative can be a make or break situation.
Apple is smart. U.S. consumers started getting word of conditions at Foxconn some time ago when the suicides started and we’ve followed the story through the media as they have taken us to the origins of our shiny toys and shown us what we already know. But, the media hasn’t left Apple alone, even though they are only one client of many when it comes to products manufactured by the hundreds of thousands people that call Foxconn their employer.
Organizations can learn a lot by how Apple has handled this particular situation…
1) Be proactive – Rather than go silent like Carnival Corp. recently did with the recent crash in Italy, Apple has been proactive with social audits from the beginning and disclosed their supplier information for the first time. While Apple does not own Foxconn, they have spent a pretty penny sending in auditors to assess and apply corrective action where necessary. Let’s keep in mind that they can’t force Foxconn to do anything. Working together improves safety and general labor conditions, without job loss or shipment delays.
2) Don’t play the blame game – Rather than calling out the media regarding their obvious bios or even trying to otherwise turn the focus to the many other electronics companies that use Foxconn, Apple has taken the high road and has been forethcomig with activities and actions. Remember Ford v Firestone? With both parties blaming each other, consumers ended up blaming both.
3) Do something no one else has – Apple paid $250k to be the first electronics company to join the Fair Labor Association. And, they are now in the process of funding 3rd party auditors to assess the conditions at the factory. So far, there have been only glowing reports. Straight from the Nike playbook, it works.
4) Show compassion – Make sure top executives communicate their support for addressing and resolving the issues. Consumers can be very forgiving if they really believe you’re sorry. Tim Cook has come out on several occasions and demonstrated his support and compassion for the labor conditions at factories making Apple products.
Apple continues to exceed stockholder expectations and remains one of the most respected brands throughout the world. They’re doing something right.