Saturday, 8 May 2010

Crisis management and the art of PR

Sometimes our consumer durables go wrong. Sometimes they go wrong in spectacular, explosive and dangerous ways. Very occasionally (about twice a year) they go so wrong that people are blown to bits, electrocuted to death or drowned in soap suds.

Obviously, this is absolutely tragic on a number of levels.

First, sales take an absolute fucking dive. Second, I have to do a huge amount of work / delegating.

Still, these situations can be handled. And it's down to me to handle them.

Reading this blog, you may think I'm only a marketing and communications legend. But I am also massively proficient, expert and respected in the world of PR. (Max Clifford, for example, once referred to my handling of a story about our exploding CleenyWeeny consumer durable as 'just unbelievable'. Praise indeed.)

The last few days have busied me greatly in this field. A Cleanavia 1100, belonging to a woman in Burnley, exploded while entering its final spin cycle. She was standing in front of it at the time. The drum became detached from the body of the consumer durable, burst through the glass door and hit her square in the face, removing her head and flinging clothes all over the room.

Her poor old noggin was found in the bread bin, topped with pair of incontinence pants, like an avant-garde hat.

Now, while this may sound absolutely fucking hilarious (and it was!) there is a downside. That downside is this: people don't want to buy a consumer durable that may, at some point, behead them. That's why this story needed to go away.

It was a situation that required sensitivity and guile. Here's how I did it.

First, I called the bereaved family (after a respectful amount of time to allow for grieving - four or five hours) and announced myself as a representative of my company. After the usual 'wanker-this and cunt-that' stuff these people seem to love slinging at me, I offered them a deal that would hopefully buy their silence: 25% off their next Cleanavia 1100. If purchased on a Wednesday. Within the next three days.

'But it's a fucking Thursday, you insensitive cunt!' bawled the headless woman's daughter.

'Alright, we'll call it 10% off any time,' I replied. 'You can't say fairer than that.'

She hung up. (I never get over how fucking rude these people can be.)

Next tactic was to engage the local press and spin the story in our favour. This is easy to do because journalists are more like hookers than hookers. They will do absolutely anything you say for a bottle of scotch, a bit of Latvian porn and a curry.

Within two hours, I had a local hack spinning a story with the headline 'Headless woman was crack whore Nazi'. With that as the focus of the episode, there's no way anyone's going to be interested in a killer washing machine.

Finally, just to make sure that nothing got out, I popped round to the grieving plebians the next day with Big Mick The Cunt, our security consultant, and suggested that if they so much as thought about going public, they would meet with a very unfortunate mishap involving their knees, an angle grinder, a chisel, a hacksaw, some gaffer tape, four two-inch screws and a few off-cuts of MDF I have in my garage. I mean, Mick's garage. I mean, a hypothetical garage.

It took a couple of days but it was worth it. Nobody will ever know about the Head-Removing Cleanavia of Burnley. Unless you start blabbing, of course. (Obviously, if you do, Big Mick The Cunt will be round faster than you can say 'Please don't saw off my knees and replace them with MDF'. Capiche?)

That, my fellow marketing professionals, is how to avert a disaster: with a finely nuanced blend of crisis management and PR.

These are the standards I set myself every day. I cannot afford to fail. And I don't.

Why? Because I AM THE CLIENT!

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