Best Buy CEO responds to bad press via blog: good or bad move?

Brian Dunn writes a blog post to address the retailer’s negative coverage, admit mistakes and defend some decisions.

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By now you’ve likely read about the negative press Best Buy has been receiving, and you may have even read the CEO’s blog response to that coverage. His response has received the predictable praise and pans from various circles of the blogosphere, and with good reason. There are some things the response managed to achieve very successfully, and in my opinion there are some things Best Buy could have done better.

Borrowing from Dunn’s blog technique, here’s my take on both:

Where he got it right

Straight talk – Companies under public scrutiny are being graded more on their responses it times of crisis than on the original issue or crisis itself. So being forthright and honest is paramount—and such straight talk is appreciated by onlookers and commenters. I admire any CEO’s willingness to acknowledge weakness or mistakes in a public venue. It shows vulnerability, honesty and a commitment to tackling issues head-on, all of which breed trust and brand loyalty.

Be direct – Newer communications channels like blogs allow spokespersons to make their cases directly before the jury of their peers. No longer should companies simply issue press releases and rely on third parties to communicate their messages for them (though one must still work with the media). Use your owned channels to communicate directly with constituents. The refreshing part is you don’t need to talk like a press release. Allow a human voice to come through.

Share and share alike – By issuing a public address of this kind (I hesitate to call it a “statement” in the traditional PR sense), you create a Web asset that can be shared and linked to on corporate websites, blogs, in social networks, and so on. It allows a limitless number of people to access the message directly, including consumers, shareholders, analysts, media, bloggers and so on. No one would be talking much about a press release. A first-person blog: that’s another story.

Where he went wrong

Can’t resist the spin cycle – Despite what on balance feels like a heartfelt mea culpa, lines like this come across as regurgitation from the corporate spin machine:

“Best Buy is a financially strong and profitable company that has generated more than $2.6 billion in cash flows from operating activities in the first three quarters of the fiscal year.”

Does any serious person think this sways Best Buy’s critics? Save it for the earnings call.

Torching the straw man – Another quote:

“A recent study by the NPD Group, a leading market research company, notes that nearly 80% of consumer electronics revenue still moves through physical stores.”

The Forbes article wasn’t trying to make the case that Best Buy has died—only that it will die. Citing a “recent study” about the heretofore health of the category does little to address the contention that poor customer service and an aging business model will be the brand’s ultimate undoing.

He doth protest too much – I understand the temptation to set the record straight. And there is a time and place for that. But I don’t think you do it in the same missive in which you ostensibly ask for the public’s forgiveness.

When I read: “But this is one of those times when I felt it was necessary not only to acknowledge our shortcomings, but to set the record straight on issues where facts are being obscured by rhetoric,I said to myself, “OOOHHH….so close. And he almost had me, too.” Just as I was beginning to give Dunn and the brand credit for taking their lumps, I was confronted with some self-satisfying bravado.

I would’ve stopped at the mea culpa. I would’ve thanked various entities for bringing such matters to light, and vow to put that intelligence to good use. I would’ve said, “You’re right. I get it, and I’ve heard you. But not on my watch…I won’t let this undo a historically innovative and successful company.”

Then I would’ve gone to work right then and there to prove these critics wrong.

Tom Nixon is a partner with Identity. Follow him on Twitter @tnixon16.

Topics: PR

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