Thanks Phoenix Business Journal and @haley ringle for reaching out to me for comment about the Massage Envy Crisis. My esteemed colleagues and I who are quoted in the story agree that swift action is necessary to protect the public, assist the victims and be absolutely transparent about why they didn't respond sooner and how they are planning to move forward both in working with law enforcement and the respecting the customers they hope to keep.
Here are my full comments and a link to the article is here:
I would hope that Massage Envy has a fully realized crisis communication plan and has steps to deal with this. When it comes to violent crime, it is important that they communicate clearly and effectively that they are working with local law enforcement and that they take all allegations very seriously.
Total number of reported cases is very high and it is essential that Massage Envy respond to protect it's brand reputation. While it is a delicate matter to communicate about crimes under investigation there certainly is precedent. One I use with my own clients is Tylenol. During the fall of 1982,Tylenol Extra-Strength capsules were replaced with cyanide-laced capsules. The unknown perpetrator resealed the packages and replaced them on the store shelves of at least a half-dozen or so pharmacies and grocery stores in the Chicago area. Before the crisis, Tylenol was the most popular pain medication and it's parent company Johnson & Johnson enjoyed a reputation as a trusted provider of many items loved my millions of Americans. Johnson & Johnson chairman James Burke immediately formed a seven member task force and asked two questions. How can we protect people? and How can we protect the brand? Their first action was to immediately inform consumers using all media channels to discontinue using any Tylenol products until the extent of the tampering was discovered. They then stopped production and suspended all advertising.
Johnson & Johnson also used the media, both PR and paid advertising to communicate their strategy during the crisis and the CEO offered sympathy with personal statements on all media channels as the spokesperson for the brand. In the first week they established a 1-800 number for consumers with questions and communicated with the public step by step their process of responding to the crisis. The word "trust" was incorporated into every message and was used thousands of times before the matter came to a close. To this day scholars look upon Johnson & Johnson's response as a highest example of success in crisis response and communication. Johnson & Johnson provided the victims families with compensation and counseling even though they were not responsible for the crime. Negative feelings from consumers were lessened when the press reported on the swift and positive actions the brand took to assist the families, despite heavy financial losses.
A sympathy strategy was the primary focus of the communication effort followed closely by Rectification involving taking action to prevent a recurrence of the crisis in the future. In Tylenol's example triple protection measures were implemented into all new product packaging. Surprisingly, until this crisis Johnson & Johnson had no proactive public relations in place and no relationships with the media from which to draw. After the crisis, the company realized the value of 365 days of proactive public relations to protect the brand during times of crisis. It is important that Massage Envy learn from this example and work swiftly to protect consumers, discuss their work to assist law enforcement and to offer sympathy to the victims and their families and to provide assistance to them--all without suggesting any wrongdoing on their part.