It’s hard to say who has a bigger brand problem—Uber or Donald Trump—when you evoke headlines like this one posted on DigiDay: ‘Brand Crises on Steroids’: Why Uber is the Trump of Brands. But since Trump rouses headlines like these daily, let’s go with Uber for this blog post on crisis communications.
Uber appears to have done a lot of things right in recent days to address its brand crisis stemming from sexual harassment and inequality charges in the workplace. For instance, it has called for an independent investigation, enlisted board member Ariana Huffington’s cooperation, and wrote an employee memo outlining its actions “to set a new standard for justice in the workplace.”
So why are they still dealing with the crisis?
As a crisis communications consultant, I often advise clients that there are two types of crises: those that occur suddenly and those that evolve over time. This one surely evolved—not over a period of months, but over years.
The negligence, or foolishness, or arrogance of the company to ignore the potential consequences is, frankly, mind-boggling. Even if Uber felt the charges were unfair and/or unsubstantiated (we’ll need to wait for the independent investigation results), they were naïve, or worse, did not see the impending reputation crisis. For that, there is no justification. Now they are paying the price. Just as the situation evolved over time, so will the need for resolution. The company must make fundamental and transformational changes, and bring them to life on a daily basis. Words and memos won’t be enough. Uber has the opportunity to become Silicon Valley’s convener and leader on fundamental change with regard to women in technology positions. That’s my opinion. What’s yours?