The new letters to the editor

As I read the letters to the editor in the Globe and Mail this morning I’m reminded of how social media has super-sized our ability to respond to what we see and hear in the media.  The letters are poignant and insightful and offer a variety of opinions regarding Richard Colvin, the diplomat who exposed the alleged Canadian torture of Afghanis and regarding Peter MacKay, Canada’s Federal Minister of Defense.

Before SM, only a handful of the public’s voice would be heard in response to the news of the day. Now, so many other smart points of view can be shared and further discussed. SM also offers the opportunity for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s Federal Government, Richard Colvin and anyone interested to check the content of what people are saying about this issue in Canada and around the world.

In this way we can all decide for ourselves which direction public opinion is flowing and if Colvin is righteous and/or if MacKay is right to attack the credibility of this whistleblower.

Will this apology make a difference?

FL-WA_GruppeSIGG CEO, Steve Wasik, is sorry. SIGG, which is, or was, a leading maker of reusable water bottles recently admitted that prior to August 2008 and contrary to what consumers believed, its popular bottles contained the chemical Bisphenol-A. BPA can leach into water and apparently poses health risks.

As most people know, SIGG was forced to admit that the company’s bottles in fact contained BPA. Prior to this admission, SIGG chose not to correct the misconception that its products were BPA-free.

Certainly the August letter from the CEO does well to show that SIGG’s intentions were noble as it voluntarily weaned off BPA liners while the FDA and scientific community continue to debate the chemical. Unfortunately, this initial admission appears far too self-serving and evasive. Or at least this is what consumers and media concluded during the backlash following this first letter from Wasik.

So, as much as it’s good that the CEO did a better job of apologizing in his second letter, it’s hard to believe that this late mea culpa matters much. SIGG profited nicely from consumers believing they were buying a BPA-free product.

This type of corporate profiteering, while bad at any time, looks worse given the public’s preference and demand for credibility, especially from companies that call themselves green. Additionally, SIGG should have known that the dialed-in, socially connected people who buy its products would make a lot of noise. Not that a good corporate citizen would want to take advantage of even the most unsophisticated shopper but you’d think that Wasik and his communications team know their customers better.

Wasik’s first message, more or less, should have been, “I am sorry that we did not make our communications on the original SIGG liner more clear from the very beginning.” I know that this statement isn’t perfect but the company would have found itself in a better position with less damage to manage.

There are a few guiding principles when managing a crisis. One that stands out for me is to determine what will end the problem and work towards that solution. SIGG should have confessed (as much as its legal counsel would allow, I suppose), apologized, stated how it would fix the problem and prevent a repeat and then put its words into action.

Instead, this once green, reusable water bottle leader is now another example of how not to treat customers.

The Jon Stewart catharsis

 

John Stewart
Jon Stewart

Is comedian Jon Stewart of the Daily Show now the most important and influential journalist on the continent? His grilling of CNBC’s Jim Cramer revealed more about the financial disaster than any other real news outlet to date. He actually got Cramer to call ex-Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, a liar.  

If you watched The Daily Show yesterday (March 12) you saw a comedy show turn very serious as Stewart aired old video of Cramer bragging about how easy it is to manipulate the markets.  Stewart then proceeds to blame Cramer and CNBC for failing as journalists.  

Arguably CNBC isn’t the only news outlet struggling to make sense of things for us all.  Perhaps Stewart’s blunt revelations and Cramer’s confessions will lead to greater and better investigative work by real journalists at a time when it’s most needed.  I know we’re overwhelmed with bad news but if Paulson and the CEOs mentioned by Cramer are hiding facts about the current financial crisis, then the public needs to know.  

On another note, and wearing my PR hat,  I would not have agreed to Cramer appearing on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart is very, very smart, articulate and righteous.   He also has home-court advantage.  All the preparation in the world wouldn’t have helped Cramer.  Perhaps he was hoping to take the high road and admit his guilt with hopes of quickly putting past mistakes behind him – which isn’t a bad idea usually.

However in this case, I would have advised Cramer to at all costs avoid engaging Stewart in a live setting.  He looked exceptionally bad.