In report after report, describing the recent issues GM has been working through, the word “debacle” has come up again and again. While most may not be able to precisely describe that term, the term carries with it an ominous “implied meaning” that Ronn Torossian says, is in many ways, worse than a more specific description.
Debacle implies both intent and ineptitude, which in itself creates a problem when trying to craft an effective PR response. Ideally, you want to be able to address a single issue at time, to fire back with positives and counter the negatives. But, when you are facing accusations of being both intentionally negligent and habitually incompetent, the Big Question becomes, “What do you go after first?”. This question becomes even more intensely problematic when you consider that both of these accusations are being leveled simultaneously.
When alleged to have made some mistakes, you can say you are aware of issues within your protocol that created negative outcomes, and that you are addressing these. Then, you can move on, having delivered a rational response to revealed mistakes. Or, if you are dealing with systematic flaws which make you appear inept, one can respond by assuring consumers that these flaws have been addressed in the most comprehensive possible way.
However, if the accusations and allegations are both specific and system-wide, the PR question becomes one of priorities. No matter which you choose, there will be vociferous critics. Therefore, your PR response must be both actively engaged in resolving the first issue while also prepared to manage the negative response from those who believe you should have addressed the other issues first. Ignoring one issue and addressing the other won’t help because it allows someone else to control that aspect of the media conversation.