Fed up with bad service delivery? Shoddy Products? Rude and inattentive staff?

Why despair? Every single morning like any well trained PR practitioner should, I scan the local dailies, only to read about some example by an aggrieved customer. But tonight I have a message to customers and other stakeholders.

The tools exist to do damage. If you are unhappy, use the tools at your disposal. NO! Not your fists! Your intellect!

Mouse  Do you have a mobile? A camera? a Camera phone? Access to the Net? A Mouse?

A Telephone? Friends? A Network?

You have the tools to start an avalanche! Normally I help companies to protect themselves, but sometimes there are just situations that make me think like an activist.


I am all for following normal communication channels, decency, protocol and other communication hints, but there is also a time to call FULL STOP!

Most companies profess that they do not like negative publicity, yet do little when you complain. I was shocked tonight when my 26 year old daughter told me about an incident today, when she saw a box of rat poison open on the bottom shelf at a local retailer (a listed one by the way). When she went to report it after she put it on the top shelf, she said to me that she was looked at incredulously and that no-one wrote down the incident or went with her to remove the box.

Obviously I corrected her and asked why she did not do something more when she said : ”Dad, I had to get back to work”‘.

Now this is where it gets interesting. If I was her, I would have taken a photo of this and placed it on my website, blog and Facebook. I would not even have reported it. I would have just written about it.

Could you imagine had she done that! Then she would have gotten some attention. Probably a dispute and an attempt to discredit her. The company responding in normal corporate speak about internal risk management processes …blah..blah…

The lesson from a company and an advisers point of view:

1. Take action. If you are not seen to be taken action, someone will tell someone and a message can spread.

2. Take the customer’s details. Write it down. Investigate. Report and give feedback and implement measures to prevent it from happening again.

3. Nothing is too small. a Small little issue like this could do harm. No? Yes! It can! An investigative journalist can start to dig and show up the organisation’s lack of caring as a pattern and a way of doing things. After all, where there is smoke there is fire, not so?

What really made me very angry about this issue is that a small child could easily put these products in their mouth. Children or Human Life can NEVER be replaced. Human Life is irreplaceable. WE can negotiate salaries or days off , however we cannot negotiate health or safety. FULL STOP.

Nursery school teachers know that by experience. This is not a joke. The particular product can kill a small child.

Yet this same company will write in their Annual Report that they care for people and the environment. Something is clearly wrong. Perception and Reality in this case do not gel. There is no understanding in that organisation about the value of company reputation. They will argue that they are successful.

Fair enough, until it is too late. Reputation Risk can emerge out of the blue and damage any organisation severely. Just ask Barloworld about this year’s Tour de France. However they did not hesitate, they took action. Definitely not the approach of this listed organisation.

I am trying to be nice here. As I told Charlene Smith and Denis Beckett, two of South Africa’s foremost journalists today: “I think when I come back (reincarnation), one day, I will come back as an investigative journalist. Reason – I often feel like a preacher using the “Spray and Pray’ method – first I communicate and then hope management will apply the lessons learned.

If only they would! I am also tired after 13 years of consulting trying to be a catalyst, asking and being nice.