Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sweden’s Leading Department Store Had A PR Hiccup After Being Hit By Terrorist Truck — Here’s What It Should Have Said Instead

Via Business Insider:

The truck that drove into crowds in central Stockholm last Friday ended its murderous journey by crashing into the corner of one of Sweden's largest department stores, Åhléns, and catching fire.

The day following the attack, as Åhléns was closed for repair work, an email was sent to customers expressing the company's values of an open society.

But it also said there would be a 50% discount on smoke-damaged products when the store was due to open Sunday.

Instantly, this kicked of a public outcry.

The announcement of a “smoke-damage” sale were met by comments questioning how Åhléns possibly could even be thinking about making profits on Friday’s tragedy.

As a first reaction, Åhlens’ CEO Gustaf Öhrn responded to the comments by stating that the decision was in line with the company’s values of openness and resistance to fear and that the sale was going ahead – no matter the reactions.

However, by Sunday morning they had changed their mind, and announced that they would push the opening another day.

Expressing regret for the initial email, Åhléns said it had acted in a rush and that they were “deeply miserable by both the decision and the email”. Åhlens’ distanced itself from the claims that their motive would have been to make profits of the event.

“People probably didn’t understand why Åhléns acted this way. It wasn’t bad itself, but it was the way in which they communicated it” explains Johan Almquist, CEO for the branding strategy company Grow, to SvD.

According to Almquist, the anger arose when the terror attack got associated with money, due to an unclear message from the department store. Furthermore, he points out that the decision seemed rushed.

“If they had to get rid of the damaged products fast due to practical reasons it would have been better to put them on sale, but donate the money to a cause linked to what happened” Almquist suggests.

Another advice he shares with SvD, aimed at other companies that he hopes will learn from this incident, is to really think about who you are and what values underpin your business. That decreases the risk for this type of mistakes.

However, Almquist thinks that neither Spendrups nor Åhléns will be hurt by the events in the long run.

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