Friday, July 30, 2010
This summer has seen its share of communication blunders and, as we head into August, we are starting to see the consequences. Tony Hayward has been removed as CEO in light of his poor handling of the oil spill. Maybe that yacht race at the height of the crisis wasn't such a good idea? Apple said it would provide iPhone 4 customers with free cases to improve reception issues that happen when the phone is held in a certain way. General Stanley McChrystal is retiring from the US Army after he was relieved of command of NATO forces in Afghanistan by President Obama, following blatantly disrespectful comments made to Rolling Stone magazine. Laurent Blanc, the new coach of the French national soccer team, announced that none of the players who went on strike at the World Cup in South Africa would play in the next match and that future selections would be based not only on talent but on a strong sense of teamwork, as well. The lesson in all of this is that what you say and do and how it is portrayed in the media and online has a tremendous impact on companies and careers. Tony Hayward didn't cause the oil spill but the problem was his to solve. Instead of showing leadership and providing clear, regular and honest communication, he was portrayed as not wanting to deal with the problem by saying he wanted his life back, minimizing the problem by not providing accurate information on the size of the disaster and not caring by going to yacht race at the height of the crisis. Likewise, Steve Jobs probably didn't design the finicky antenna for the iPhone 4 but he did tout its engineering at the launch press conference. Instead of blaming customers for holding the iPhone the wrong way he should have said right off the bat that the iPhone 4 didn't live up to Apple's high quality standards and that they would find a solution. Instead of a story that persisted for a period of time and tarnished Apple's otherwise sterling reputation, it would have been a one day story that might have actually strengthened their image as a company that can do no wrong. General McChystal should have had media training and a thorough briefing prior to letting a Rolling Stone reporter follow his entourage for a month. If he had done so, he would not have made such rookie mistakes. The problem is that most CEOs or, for that matter, Generals and professional athletes, don't understand the importance of communication and, as a result, don't solicit much input from their communications department or agency. If they had, they would have probably reacted differently.