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The DON’Ts of Crisis PR: Uber Edition

uber - /oober/ - denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing.

By its very name, “uber” means outstanding. And as of lately, the thing which has been outstanding for the rideshare, private car and taxi service of the same name has been the example the company has set for what not to do in a crisis. If you haven’t been following the demise of Uber, let me catch you up. Among other things, Uber’s privacy policy has been on blast after their SVP made comments about tracking journalists who had previously painted the company in a negative light. After a slew of other negative allegations pointing to the misuse of data, many of Uber’s loyal supporters are deleting the app and swearing by the old-fashioned version of hailing a cab or worse, using competitor, Lyft.

If nothing else, the very fast and furious fall of the previously uber-popular app has shined a bright spotlight on crisis communications. Here are few high-level tips of what NOT to do when you are under fire:

DON’T Speak Without a Plan

The first and most important thing you can do in a crisis is develop messaging for your key audiences. First, determine who you need to speak to and what you want them to know. Create messaging that’s authentic, transparent and simple. You cannot (and should not) ignore the crisis, and the best way to confront one is head-on, but plan your goals and the path to achieving them up front. The initial time you speak to the media is sometimes the most important, because it sets the tone for the entire conversation.

DON’T Stray From Message

Once your message has been developed, do not stray! And ensure all key stakeholders are aligned on what that message is. In the case of Uber, Ashton Kutcher, an investor, tweeted about the incident while the company was already under a microscope. Even though he claimed to not be speaking on behalf of the company, it provided an opening for more criticism, a big no-no when reputations are on the line.

DON’T Cut Corners

After people started pointing to blog posts by the company that demonstrated a lack of ethics, Uber responded by taking them down. Never assume you can quietly back out of a situation. The fact that the posts in question had suddenly disappeared just made people speculate as to what else the company was attempting to hide. With clear and defined messaging as your weapon, confront crises head-on. Give your audience the impression that you’re being transparent. In a crisis especially, you can’t afford to lose the trust of others.

DON’T Be Above Sorry

Remember the power of an apology. Sometimes all that’s needed to defuse an otherwise difficult situation is a good old fashioned “sorry.” Say you’re sorry, say it often and most importantly, mean it. Humans make mistakes and the masses are much less likely to turn on you if you can admit when you messed up.

Crisis communications is like all communications in that it should be well-planned and deliberate. During a crisis, emotions can get the best of you. But by following the advice of your PR counsel, you can avoid an uber catastrophe.