We seem to be up to our ears in media scandals these days. From the News of the World hacking scandal to the latest bad-boy behavior in Washington, D.C., the market seems ripe for experts in crisis communications.
Which is why I was heartened to read in Entrepreneur magazine’s “Daily Dose” this week profiling the proactive action that Blake Mycoskie, founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” of TOMS Shoes, took to deal with his own communications crisis.
It seems that following a successful presentation at this year’s SXSW Interactive Conference, Mycoskie was asked to speak to a Christian organization called Focus on the Family. During his SXSW speech, Mycoskie talked about launching TOMS shoes as a socially responsible company that has been providing free footwear to impoverished children around the globe. After speaking to Focus on the Family, Christianity Today wrote an article suggesting that TOMS Shoes had forged an alliance with the Christian group, which had a firm stance against abortion and same-sex marriage; positions that were in direct opposition to Mycoskie’s equality message, and the foundation message for TOMS Shoes.
Here’s where Mycoskie demonstrates that he and his PR team are on the ball.
Rather than trying to sweep the accusations under the carpet or point fingers at Christianity Today, Mycoskie took to the web to issue an apology and get the attention, and ultimately support, of his critics.
He turned to Facebook and Twitter to listen to outraged customers and hear their complaints, and respond.
He worked with Ms.Magazine to launch a petition to Change.org in favor of , coincidentally on the eve of passage of same-sex marriage law in New York (a large market for TOMS). Mycoskie was quick to issue his own apology to set the record straight.
He issued a written heart-felt apology on his own blog, stating:
When I accept an invitation for a public speaking engagement, my purpose is to share the TOMS story and our giving mission. In no way do I believe that this means I endorse every single aspect of the organization I am speaking to. That may be naïve, and you may disagree, but it is my sincere belief.
TOMS and I have made mistakes internally and externally over the past several weeks, and I am deeply sorry for letting you down. We have learned a lot and are taking steps so that they do not happen again. I regret that I, and many of you, have been pulled into this issues debate as a result – which was never our intention. However, my biggest regret is that the controversy has disrupted our effort to convene people of good will around our similarities rather than our differences, so that we can join together in serving those in the greatest need while inspiring others to do the same.
Once he inadvertently put his foot in it by speaking before an audience with a contrary political agenda, Mycoskie did everything right in extricating himself from the mess:
- He immediately started talking to his followers and his customers to gather information and get feedback. Social media has become a terrific forum to establish immediate customer dialogue.
- He was proactive in taking charge of the crisis, admitting his error in judgment, and setting the record straight, without laying blame or finger-pointing.
- He took personal responsibility, stepping forward to face the music and accept responsibility without hiding behind corporate mouthpieces or minions.
- He was sincere and empathetic in his apology to his followers.
The result has been positive to Mycoskie and TOMS Shoes. The executive comes across as a straight-shooter and a mensch who made an error in judgment. The response was cogent, rational, and appropriately apologetic and sincere. If anything, this crisis has strengthened TOMS Shoes’ brand image and brought in even more customers while restoring the faith of his followers.