Good morning, class.
Today’s lesson will be quick. Don’t be intimidated that it is a graduate-level topic: Crisis management for corporate America -- and anyone else, for that matter.
It boils down so simply a kindergartner can comprehend it.
Let’s start by quoting Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos. “Bad news doesn’t get better with age,” Amos has said more than a million times.
See, told you it boiled down nicely.
Now that you have the theory, let’s put it in practice.
Last month, Gilbert Gottfried, the foul-mouth comedian and voice of the Aflac duck, did something really stupid.
In the immediate wake of the earthquake and tsunami that crippled and battered Japan, killing thousands, Gottfried became a Tweeting fool. His comments were insulting, demeaning and, quite frankly, not funny. They are not even worth repeating.
But they were a potential problem for Amos and Aflac.
A big problem.
More than 70 percent of Aflac’s business -- translation: cash -- comes out of Japan. The company could not have the screaming voice of the operation making such insensitive remarks about its customer base.
That would be the bad news part of which Amos often speaks.
So how did the company handle it when it discovered Gottfried’s Twitter page? Well, some of those on the inside said the decision to fire Gottfried was made in less than 10 minutes. It took a couple of hours to announce it because of that whole legal hoops and jumping thing.
Still, it was plenty of time to alter the news cycle. Instead of the first reports being about Gottfried’s remarks, most of the initial reports centered around Aflac firing Gottfried.
Talk about meeting bad news at the door and slamming it shut.
Now the company has launched a national campaign to find a new voice for the duck. The first post-Gottfried ad was brilliant. The duck stars in a silent film, rescuing a damsel in distress.
The woman is about to be hit by a train. The duck saves her. There is a parallel here. Aflac was about to be struck by a train last month. Dealing with the bad news in a direct and open fashion derailed what could have been a terrible situation.
Thanks for listening, class.
But before we go, let’s close with some advice for those who are sitting on bad news. It will not get better with time. It only gets worse.
Take the lead of no less an expert on such matters as Aflac. You need proof this philosophy works? Look at the New York Stock Exchange. Monday afternoon, Aflac’s stock closed at more than $54 per share.
That is tangible.
There you have it, a graduate lesson on a 5-year-old’s level.