Crisis Communication

Archive for February 2009

Dell Inc. Battery Recall Case Study
Silver-Anvil Award Winner

From tgdaily.comIn 2006, Dell voluntarily recalled 4.2 million lithium-ion batteries. The batteries, under certain conditions, could overheat and cause fire. The media had previously noted a Dell laptop going up in smoke and another that had melted.

It was the “largest recall in the history of consumer electronics,” (Case Study, PRSA Silver-Anvil Award Winner). According to Time Magazine, the recall affected 15% of laptops sold from 2004 to 2006.

Following a leak to the press, Dell launched its communication plans about 12 hours early. According to the case study, “Dell became a model for how a company could rapidly and accurately respond to its customers.”

Dell provided a Web site – – with details and instructions for customer. There also was a customer service line available.

Although Dell handled the crisis, the batteries were actually manufactured by Sony.

Time Magazine quoted Richard Shim, a PC industry analyst:

“Shim says that Dell, hit by bad publicity that could harm consumer sales, took this opportunity to reach out to its customers. ‘It’s part of a long-term strategy to build back the trust of consumers,’ he says.”

Dell’s credibility was negativly affected with headlines such as “Dell laptop become a flamethrower.”

But, the open dialogue and effectiveness of the recall probably helped Dell’s image. Dell was the first company to address the issue of the Sony batteries. According to the case study, “Dell initiated the recall on the basis of six incidents among almost 20 million batteries in the marketplace.”

Picture from


WebMD article

LA Times Blog

Genentech could have a possible crisis on its hands due to the recent public health advisory for its drug Raptiva, which treats psoriasis. The company appears to be handling it well.

WebMD says, “According to the FDA, there have been three confirmed and one possible case of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in people taking Raptiva; three of those people died.”

The FDA issued a warning about Raptiva last October.

There is not yet much information about this. In the articles I have come across have responses from spokespeople, who assure readers that Genentech is working with the FDA.

I think this could evolve into a problem if Raptiva is found to be the cause of PML, and if more people die from the drug.

Facebook’s about face

Facebook backs into a “Bill of Rights

Controversy followed the reorganization of Facebook’s terms of service last week.

I recall seeing several posts on Twitter about “Facebook TOS.” There also were many blog posts and coverage in traditional media.

Facebook handled this crisis well. As criticism became apparent, Facebook polled users and then evaluated the options. Further work could be done to clarify the new terms of service, or, Facebook could return to its previous terms of service.

I think returning to its previous terms of service was the best choice. Facebook let its users know that their concerns were heard. Facebook also found ways to take action. It is inviting users to contribute to the next terms of service.

Lastly, the Facebook founder and CEO was visible. He wrote a blog post about the concerns of the users.