#DearIntern – How to Leap Forward After a Stumble
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”― Rahm Emanuel
In June, a blank mass email with the subject line: “integration test email #1” was accidentally sent to thousands of HBOMax subscribers. It was clearly a mistake. People started posting screenshots of the email and tagging HBOMax on social media to express their dissatisfaction and confusion. Then HBOMax tweeted this:
Let’s take a moment and appreciate the artistry of this reply. HBOMax didn’t ignore the problem, they addressed it swiftly and transparently. Most importantly, they responded with empathy and humor. (I’ve written about the importance of humor before.) The deft response generated an outpouring of support for the poor intern. Soon Twitter and Instagram users flooded social media with their own horror stories with the hashtag #dearintern.
Haven’t we all been there?
Autocorrect strikes again? *If you’re having a bad day, try browsing the hashtag #dearintern. It’s hilarious and uplifting.
The gold standard for crisis management is Johnson & Johnson’s response to the deadly Tylenol tampering in 1982. Someone was inserting cyanide-laced capsules in random bottles of Tylenol. Seven people died. The company could have stalled and hoped someone else might be held accountable. They could have tried to settle with the victims. Instead, J&J leadership issued massive recalls of all potentially tampered products. They set up a toll-free hotline and provided financial aid and counseling for victims and their families. They brought in the media to amplify coverage in the name of safety. The brand could have been destroyed. Instead, brand trust was not only restored, it was strengthened.
Gary often says, “Don’t judge me by my mistakes. Judge me by how I respond to them.” This is a great truth in life. We will all fail, sometimes publicly and spectacularly. Sometimes, it won’t be our fault but it will be our responsibility. How we respond matters.
If you find yourself needing to resolve a misstep, the first thing you need to do is let your clients know you’re aware there’s been a problem. Do this swiftly and transparently. Swift because in the absence of facts, speculation will rush to fill the void. Transparent because in this day and age, the truth always comes out. The next element is where the artistry lies. We must strike the right tone. HBOMax knew the stakes were low and wove empathy and humor into their message. Johnson & Johnson recognized it was literally life or death and approached the situation with empathy and gravity. What both had in common was empathy. You can never go wrong taking a moment to identify the emotions your customers might be feeling and addressing them with compassion.
One question to ponder in your thinking time: How can I turn my next mistake into an opportunity?
Make an Impact!
* In the early 2000’s at KW, anyone could email every agent in our company from their email client. One morning, we discovered the listing feed from Realtor.com hadn’t loaded properly. One of our web designers quickly emailed every agent in the US and Canada. Think of the thousands of listing agents wondering why their listings weren’t appearing on the website! The email was timely, transparent, and unintentionally humorous. Ryan ended the email with: “We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.” Unfortunately, autocorrect changed “inconvenience” to “incontinence.” I wish we had saved some of the responses to that one. Ryan, if you’re reading this, you’re still a legend around here.