Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Stop pointing fingers! Don’t play the blame game during a crisis [Tuesdays: “Write with the Pen of the Masters”]

April 7, 2020


#4 Don’t Play the Blame Game

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A crisis comes in many forms. It can come from natural unavoidable events or man-made incidents.

Today, the world is focused on one crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the livelihood of millions across the globe and has claimed over 50,000 lives.

For brands and companies, a crisis can cripple their operations, compromising their ability to provide products and services to their clients and customers.

Regardless of how it happens, your brand or company must have accountability for their actions.

During times of crisis, it is essential that you maintain an effective means to communicate with your customers and employees. This will help you control the crisis situation, and will help you find effective solutions to your current predicament.

To help you communicate effectively, we at Valens Research aim to provide you with important tips and advice based on 7 Crisis Communication Tips Every Organization Should Master from Northeastern University’s Communication program.

In our past three articles, we talked about why you should Respond Quickly, how to Leverage Support, and why you should Put the Victims First. This week, our tip is…

Don’t Play the Blame Game.

A crisis can cause numerous problems and affect your business operations. It can also cause emotions to run high with your customers and employees.

This can lead to distrust and frustration, with more people investing their time and energy pointing fingers instead of finding a solution.

This has become the case for many companies over the years, causing damage to their brand.

Last week, we talked about the power of a genuine apology and how it helps your customers understand the current situation and find ways to help them out. This time, we’ll talk about how you can avoid blaming others and instead, focus on being accountable and provide actionable solutions.

Over the years, there have been companies that have executed effective communication strategies and avoided the blame game that many have fallen into.

One notable example is Johnson & Johnson and their Tylenol scandal.

In 1982, a person (also suspected to be a group) replaced the pills in some of their Tylenol bottles with ones laced with cyanide, causing a number of deaths. At that time, this was one of the brand’s most profitable products in the market because it was used and trusted by a large number of Americans.

Upon receiving the alarming news, the company devised an effective communication strategy. They began by immediately alerting their consumers to stop buying and consuming Tylenol. They pulled out all of their products that were already on grocery and pharmacy shelves and stopped production. After, they launched a national hotline for their consumers who needed help and another special hotline for the media to call and receive the company’s statements faster.

They also set up press conferences and a live feed on television to inform more people. At a time when social media and the internet was not yet available, Johnson & Johnson’s communication plan helped reach 90% of Americans during the first week of the initial news reports. Their strategy included using media and paid advertising to communicate with as many consumers as possible.

In the end, they were able to successfully pull out all the bottles on store shelves and investigated them. They introduced a new form of safe packaging to prevent similar scenarios from happening in the future.

Other companies might have dealt with this by placing the blame on the perpetrators or their own employees for weak quality control. Instead, Johnson & Johnson held their whole firm accountable and created a solution that prevents any more issues that can negatively affect the health of their consumers.

While this may be an older example, Johnson & Johnson’s communication strategy is still applicable today. With social media and email marketing becoming more accessible, you can communicate and engage with your clients and customers much faster, allowing you to send advisories and messages to thousands of people in a single click.

You can also make use of different media types and create helpful infographics with detailed information, or videos containing advisories and guides. Blogs and effective copywriting slogans are also helpful because you can create relief campaigns and provide helpful content to people who need them.

How can you avoid playing the blame game?

Set an example and be accountable – People tend to speculate and jump to conclusions during times of crisis, causing suspicion as to who or what is at fault. This IS the blame game and causes more frustration.

Instead of letting the incident get out of hand, it is best to set an example and be accountable for what happened. This will avoid or lessen the tendency to point fingers at each other, and help you assess and handle the situation better. With today’s pandemic, companies have to be accountable when it comes to addressing their employees and customers. Failing to do so can lead them to blame the company directly for not taking any form of action.

Report to your customers immediately – One of the worst things that can happen to your company during a crisis is an outsider reporting it ahead of you. This has caused many problems for a lot of companies because it can damage brand image. People would assume that you’re hiding information from them, which is why an outsider reported it in the first place.

Make sure that you properly inform your clients or customers immediately. This will keep them calm during the situation. It’s always best that they hear the news from your end first.

Taking today’s pandemic into context, many people have become concerned about how they can get supplies and access services. This has caused uncertainty and confusion. To ensure that your customers do not experience this, inform them about the crisis and the state of your services and operations as soon as possible.

Spend time looking for solutions – Many companies have found it challenging to address a crisis, as they spend more time bickering and blaming others rather than handling the problem first. This is why it is important to be proactive rather than reactive in these scenarios.

Focus on making solutions and contingency plans. This will help you and your customers during tough times. You can recover much faster and prevent further damage or possible mishaps along the way.

To relate this to the current global pandemic, some companies and organizations are doing their part in finding solutions to overcome it. They have utilized crisis communication to ensure that the people are well-informed and that steps are being taken to provide aid and solutions.

By following this week’s tip, you’ll remember to NOT play the blame game so you can help your company become more proactive and find solutions that would benefit your customers and your brand as a whole.

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Write with the Pen of the Masters”

Who doesn’t find content writing to be a skill that requires a lot of practice and effort?

In fact, many people may even find copywriting very intimidating.

However, you can be a good writer as long as you have the right tools. You won’t always get things right the first time, but with enough time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it!

When you write a copy for any brand or for your company, your aim is to make an impact and…

…to get people to remember.

Getting people to remember means getting consumers to buy your product or to avail of your service.

And when you get your content to deliver the results you want, THAT is a great copy!

Every Tuesday, we publish content based on tips and insights from the masters of content writing, copywriting, and storytelling.

Become more familiar with ways to write great copy that helps you gain ROI from your efforts, drive profitability, and achieve your business goals.

Learn time-tested tactics that better capture the attention of your target audience, and maximize the benefits of great copywriting.

Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Write with the Pen of the Masters!”


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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