Crisis communication is one aspect of the corporate and professional world that is regarded with hesitation and stress. Just as in everyday life, most people prefer to avoid conflict at all cost. However, when faced with conflict or crisis it is those who handle the situations in the most effective and fair manner that exemplify great corporate communication and leadership skills.
An example of crisis and conflict in the corporate world was the tire recall and conflict between Ford Motor Company and Firestone tires. After expressing concerns that Firestone had manufactured defective tires, which had been used on Fords Explorer model vehicles, John Lampe CEO of Firestone tires caused business relationships to quickly end between the two companies. The next day Ford announced that it would have to recall over 13 million tires that had not been previously included in the 6.5 million tire recall. Discrepancies on the safety of the Explorer tires generated heated debates between Firestone and Ford. Though Firestone admitted the tires were unsafe in its first 6.5 million recalls, it denied any knowledge that the alleged 13 million defective tires Ford was recalling, were not safe. Ford’s boss, Jacques Nasser, stated “We simply do not have enough confidence in the future performance of these tires keeping our customers safe.” The companies began the blame game, accusing each other for the defective tires and as injuries and fatalities increased, the conflict and arguments intensified.
As the conflict continued between Ford and Firestone, the incident was being called the most deadly auto crisis in America. By October 16, 2000, over 119 deaths had occurred from the defective tires. In the end, over 250 deaths were reported and attributed to this crisis and over 3,000 serious injuries. While the companies were blaming each other, their consumers were being hurt, and in this case, not figuratively but literally.
The importance of handling crisis communication in an effective and timely manner is essential to corporate business. If the Ford/Firestone conflict had been resolved quickly, with both parties recognizing that it takes “two to tango” and that both parties were responsible for the defective tires, then they could have protected their profit losses, their own employees, reputations, and ultimately ensured the safety of their consumers and thus branding their companies as trustworthy and reliable. Instead, both parties chose to blame the other instead of focusing on a solution and the best possible resolution and thus exemplified very, very poor crisis communication skills which the consumer ultimately paid for, both out of pocket and even their lives.