What to do when your product spontaneously combusts:

1. Apologize

2. Replace it

3. Explain what happened

4. Outline what’s being done so it never happens again

What not to do during a crisis:

Respond like Samsung: The company said it would replace a smoking phone, but only if the user stopped talking about its breakdown on social media channels.  Bad idea.  Within minutes, the full text of the letter was, you guessed it, published online, as well as a YouTube video created about Samsung’s lame response.

In a crisis, it’s important to take responsibility – if not for the incident, then certainly for doing all you can to contribute to a solution.  In working with many companies, here is the response formula I most often recommend:

  • Attempt to take the situation offline and handle it professionally, if possible.
  • If the incident is already in the social space, admit the error and explain why it occurred.  In this case, Samsung surely could point to millions of phones manufactured without flaws, and the tiny percentage of incidents that occur in electronics made by any manufacturer.
  • Outline what the company is doing to ensure zero defects.
  • Emphasize the company’s commitment to quality, and to the customer.
  • Do whatever it takes to turn the customer back into a loyal advocate.

In today’s social media age, it is absurd to think you can threaten or bully the consumer or hide from your mistakes. Consumers routinely call manufacturers and retailers out in a very public space. They also understand that mistakes happen and reward you for doing the right thing.

My suggestion for your crisis communication: Do the right thing from the start.