I am always puzzled by how organizations communicate with their constituency and how — almost without exception — the more control they place on the messaging process the worse it makes them look.

By Steve Moran

I am going to classify this article as a minor rant . . . with a point.

I am always puzzled by how organizations communicate with their constituency and how, almost without exception, the more control they place on the messaging process (clearly with the goal of making the company look good or at least not look bad) the worse it makes them look. Some examples:

The Price of Death Honda Fails Big Time

I own a 2010 or 2011 Honda Pilot and a couple of months ago I received a recall notice telling me that the passenger side airbag is possibly defective and that, if the car is in an accident and the airbag goes off, it is possible that anyone who is in that seat could be killed or seriously injured.  

The letter goes on to express how much, as a valued Honda customer, they are concerned about our safety; that because of this defect no one should ride in that seat until the airbag is replaced; and that we should contact our Honda dealership about getting a replacement.  

Inconvenient but so far so good . . .

Except that after contacting the dealer I learn two more pieces of information: 1) That airbag replacement parts are backordered; 2) That they won’t give me even a rough estimate as to when the airbag will be replaced.

It is simple, they say, just don’t use the passenger side front seat and all is good.

From their perspective they have done what they need to do. It matters not that I bought that car as the main transportation for my household and that I bought it expecting someone could actually use the front passenger seat.  

So then I ask about a rental or loaner car. And I am told someone will get back to me, but they will not even give an estimate as to when that will be.   

Social Media

I go to Facebook to complain. In just a couple hours I get a reply asking for my VIN and other stuff so they can follow-up privately. Classic Social Media 101 response, except after I provide the information they once again quit responding.   

Fast forward two months and I am really frustrated so I push a little harder and started to post this:

“Today I am grieving the death of my wife Pat who was killed by the airbag in our Honda Pilot . . .”

But thought better of it after realizing that friends and family might see it and freak out. So this is what I posted instead:

Well Honda. So mourning the death of my aunt Sue who died from an airbag explosion this past weekend. She repeatedly ask for help and you would not even respond. Now this.

First I don’t have an aunt Sue who died in airbag explosion I just wanted to see if it might actually get a response. It did. Six hours later I got a phone call from Honda, which meant they had taken what I posted on social media and found my file and phone number. So far so good.

Except that after a short interview and a long, long hold, I was told, tough luck. I have 6 back seats, use those.  

“But wait, I bought a car that has two useable front seats.”

Back to Facebook I go and, at least as of this moment, the best I get is a completely insincere apology.

You can see the whole exchange here:


So they have this message of caring,  and likely even tell themselves they do care, but at the end of the day the actions say. “Our bottom line is way more important than anything, even the very lives of our customers.”

Hypocrisy Never Wins

Recently I was at an event where someone from a non-senior living related organization was conducting some interviews. I watched the process and people were very willing to help. I thought it would be interesting to interview the person who was conducting the interviews and so I asked. The response was an immediate and forceful NO. I suggested that seemed to be a bit of a double standard and was met with a swift ,“That’s my right to not be interviewed” response.   

It was that person’s right and it was likely the organization’s policy that they not be allowed to do interviews. It controls the message but what it does not do is control how people view that organization and in both cases the view is not so great.

Matching the Message with the Mission

It turns out that lots of rules actually don’t control the message at all . . . unless the goal is to look bad. At the end of the day it all comes down to the culture of your organization. If you have a great culture where people know and believe in the mission of your organization, you never have to worry about controlling the message because every single one of your people will make you look good.

Don’t get me wrong, there may be some fails and when that happens it will be so rare that forgiveness will be great. If there are repeated fails with multiple people then maybe there is a culture problem. If there are repeated fails by a single individual they clearly are not a fit.

This kind of matching the message with mission makes life easier for everyone. It means you can trust a housekeeper, maintenance guy or dishwasher to do your tours and post on your facebook page.