Recently someone ask me if I thought car service Uber could improve consumer perceptions by engaging with social influencers. I replied with a very tentative maybe.
The damage to the firm’s brand goes well beyond one or two faux pas. Sexual assault of female passengers and sexual harassment of female employees being a particular problem. Before it should engage with consumers directly through social influencers, Uber needs to actually fix that which is broken. Time for talk has passed. Time to walk.
The following day, I read an opinion piece by Uber investors Mitch and Freada Kapor that called on the company to do that very thing. Really fix its problems, not just promise to fix and do nothing substantive or sustaining.
Think about that for a minute. Investors so concerned about the situation, and so stymied by the regular channels of communication that they felt their only recourse was a public, open letter.
Something similar happened in the “momosphere” this past weekend. While I am not privy to all the details, the general gist is that two employees of a non-profit quit very publicly, detailing systemic racism and microaggressions in their posts, and others were quick to corroborate their stories, also very publicly.
How bad is the crisis, when insiders feel there is no possibility of change from within, and they literally take to the streets? Publicly and with attribution, as distinct from an anonymous source like Watergate’s Deep Throat or any number of rogue Twitter accounts sharing salacious details from the Trump White House.
And what does that mean for the organization under siege?
Fundamentally, when things get to this point, Public Relations As Usual is too little, too late. When the folks are figuratively marching in the streets, you need to respond in kind — with passion and commitment to change. Keeping in mind that you may NEVER do enough to satisfy the critics, but you have to try. Seriously try to fix your broken product.
You can’t expect things to turnaround overnight either. The things you do and say right away are just the start. You have to stay the course. Your public has to see that the changes you promise are real and sustainable. Especially if they have heard it before, but the followthrough was lacking.
Anything less than real commitment to change will not be enough.