Mattel crisis teaches lesson in humanity

Mattel’s public relations debacle teaches us all that an ounce of humanity is worth a pound of consumer trust.

The latest company to join the Crisis Communication Case Study Club is Mattel, which announced in mid-August a recall of 19 million toys in 43 countries. The recall was prompted by the discovery of hazardous levels of lead paint and potentially harmful magnets in several of its toy lines.

The company’s crisis communication efforts were well documented in the press and blogosphere alike. Mattel’s response included a dedicated, comprehensive Web site specifically for the recall, which contains a personal video message (and stoic mea culpa) from Mattel CEO Robert Eckert. Meanwhile, Lisa Marie Bongiovanni, the company’s VP of corporate communi-cations, took time away from her maternity leave to work during the crisis (an innocuous detail that curiously made it into several articles and reports).

The Los Angeles Times reported that Eckert did 14 TV interviews and fielded calls from 20 reporters on the day the recall was announced. In all, the company responded to 300 media inquiries in the United States.

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