Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NBC Mishandling Brian Williams Apology

It is my humble opinion that NBC and the PR team at NBC are mishandling the fallout of the Brian Williams misremembering crisis.  That he "conflated" the episode in Iraq may have been the least of his problems, but using a vocabulary word that few know didn't help his effort at a half-asses apology.  And as Mr. Williams takes some time to withdraw from all public appearances, including a scheduled visit to The Late Show With David Letterman on rival CBS, it begs the question, could this PR nightmare been better handled.

I believe that NBC is using the wrong playbook.  To me, the better way to have handled this outcry would be to face it straight on with minimal delay.  I cite case book examples in the world of business from Tylenol, Coke and even Netflix to illustrate how a fast response can avert a greater disaster.  Tylenol did it by quickly recalling all product, apologizing and announcing efforts to use different packaging to demonstrate safety was their highest priority.  Coke tried a new coke formula but was quick to pull from market and announce the return of its classic formula.  And Netflix thought it could divide the company into two entities, DVD and streaming; they heard the backlash and were quick to stop the split and respond directly.

Yet the team working with Brian Williams has chosen to not follow these examples.  The apology was not to the point and direct; rather, muddled by shades of gray.  Had he then stayed out in the public, talking directly to anyone who wanted to hear his apology and how he was contrite and eager to demonstrate his trustworthiness, I believe this incident would have been minimized and Mr. Williams would have retained his good standing among the public.  Withdrawing from appearances, removing himself from his own nightly news program, has only added to the problem.  And it may now be too late for him to fully recover his good stature and high ratings. 

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