When a company comes to a crisis everyone turns to public relations to fix it. The questions of what needs to be done and what will be said to the public quickly arise. Public relations and crisis management are crucial when it comes to fixing a problem and possibly saving a company from losing all of their consumers. Kim Bhasin writes about PR management in an article for Business Insider,
“Crisis management requires more than an apologetic press release or a CEO’s disingenuous appearance on CNN. News goes viral in a flash. Companies must be ready to respond to disasters swiftly and decisively, using all platforms to communicate with the public. Most importantly, companies that make mistakes must sincerely accept responsibility for their actions — not distance themselves from them.” (Bhasin, 2011).
Bhasin perfectly explains the reason why public relations and crisis management are key to a companies success even after an important turning point.
In February of 2014, General Motors had an enormous list of vehicles with recalls on the ignition switch. These cars include, “Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR, Pontiac G5 and Solstice and the Saturn Ion and Sky. All are from model years 2003 through 2007.” GM acknowledged 12 deaths have been linked to the failure of of the ignition switch. The first report of this problem became known in 2001 when testing the Saturn Ion which resulted in a new design for the switch. “However, in 2004, another GM engineer driving a Chevrolet Cobalt, hit the key and accidentally shut the car off.” Because the company was unaware of any deaths until 2007 the problem had to be traced back to the original issue (Valdes-Depena, 2014). Like any professional public relations team, the research was traced back to the original cause before making any announcement to the public. This is the reason why the recalls were announced seven years after the deaths had been reported.
Many company crises are presented to the public via a public relations representative, however General Motors CEO, Mary Barra spoke to congress in early April of 2014 to explain the situation. Barra became CEO only weeks before the recalls were announced and had to make decisions immediately.
Bhasin made the point that decisions must be made swiftly and decisively and that is exactly what Mary Barra did.
“Barra confirmed GM has dismissed 15 people connected with the recall and has initiated a safety review that has led to a record 44 recalls of 18 million cars in the U.S. so far this year… ‘I never want anyone associated with GM to forget what happened,’ Barra said in her prepared remarks. ‘This is not another business challenge. This is a tragic problem that should never have happened and must never happen again.’” (Click On Detroit, 2014).
Because of Barra’s quick decision making GM has yet to suffer from the massive list of recalls. In fact, the recalls have not affected sales for the company. The CEO handled the situation promptly and answered questions to the best of her ability, making it known that some research is still in the works. Although the company is still facing lawsuits it continues to grow and take care of it’s customers even after a crisis so large.
Bhasin, K. (2011). 9 PR Fiascos That Were Handled Brilliantly By Management. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/pr-disasters-crisis-management-2011-5? op=1. [Last Accessed 20 October 2014].
Click On Detroit (2014). GM CEO Mary Barra testifies again on Capitol Hill about ignition recall. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/gm-ceo-mary-barra- to-testify-again-on-capitol-hill-about-ignition-recall/26532480. [Last Accessed 19 October 2014].
Valdes-Dapena, P. (2014). GM recall: 10 things you need to know. [ONLINE] Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/14/autos/gm-recall-faq/. [Last Accessed 20 October 2014].