Ford South Africa Screws Up Their Reputation Management Efforts

Ford South Africa is under fire after recently mishandling a crisis involving a number of their Kuga cars.  According to their CEO, Jeff Nemeth, after more than 40 engine fires and one fatal explosion, the global manufacturer had to recall more than 4 000 Kuga Ecoboost 1.6 litre models between the years 2012 and 2014.
Ford South Africa Screwing Up on their Reputation Management
Since the incident, the company has received much backlash from the media and dissatisfied customers.  Needless to say, the cars’ malfunctions and resulting recalls have hurt their reputations.  Time could prove the situation to have permanently damaged the company’s Africa operation.

Matters are worst because of Ford South Africa Screwing Up on their Reputation Management.  Maintaining a good reputation is vital to operating a successful business.  There are so many sensitive topics and incidents these days, that could tarnish a company’s brand permanently.  That’s why the Ford South Africa has recently learned the importance of having the right strategies and people in place to take preventative measures when it comes to brand reputation and PR.

In addition to Ford South Africa Screwing Up on their Reputation Management, several companies have also been at the center of controversy in recent years.  Besides the nationally recognized BP oil spill, car manufacturers like Toyota, Vokswagen, and General Motors have suffered losses due to recalls involving mechanical and ethical issues.  In the case of Ford South Africa screwing up on their reputation management, there are some action steps they could have taken to protect their customers and themselves.

Take the necessary steps to manage the crisis
Reputation and crisis management starts long before an incident occurs.  It’s just like having an emergency fund.  It’s no use starting to build one at the time of need.  In the digital age where everything is in the open and able to be recorded and go viral in seconds, it’s important to be ahead of the game in managing company reputation. Ford South Africa should have already had the staff and strategy in place long before the screw up.

In the midst of a company catastrophe, the appointed executive should know to:

– Take immediate action to acknowledge the issue
– Let customers know the company is empathetic to how they’ve been impacted
– Be honest while answering questions from the media
– Plan the next steps in order of importance

It’s no longer an option for businesses to sweep things under the rug, or hide them from the public or consumers until they have “figured things out”.  Consumers are more aware of what’s going on in business, and how to access information.  With digital content and social media, everything is shareable with the click of a button now.

Maintain integrity and trustworthiness
Trust is at the very core of any relationship, and especially in business.  Circumstances that occurred over the past few years have made it more challenging to gain the trust of consumers in the first place.  Businesses making fraudulent and poor ethical decisions based on greed, publicity shining negative light on companies, and the economic downturn have all been a part of the faith shaking activities in the business world.  Essentially, people no longer put the same trust in businesses as they used to.

Consumers no longer choose too back brands and make purchases solely based on the quality of the product.  These days they base decisions more on who’s behind the company, and if they like them, relate to them, and trust them.  The media and even more modern individual influence (through social media) plays a huge role in how customers feel about the company.

Companies have to adjust to the times, and remain aware of how their demographic thinks and feels.  They must also pay attention to the current methods of influence.  Making sure customers view the company favorably, that they trust those involved, and that they feel confident about their association with the company is key to building the bond needed to get through a crisis.

As always, actions speak louder than words
It’s not enough for a company to state their plans, feelings, or desired actions.  They need the proof to back it up.  With this tactic, companies should:

– Engage socially and show concern for the state of the environment
– Have strong leadership in place, have a record of strong performance, make sensible financial decisions in the future, and have a sound marketing plan in place.
– Have good work ethic and be dedicated as an employee
– Have good customer service in all purchasing areas (brick and mortar and online)

It’s uncertain whether any of the preliminary strategies would have helped with Ford South Africa Screwing Up on their Reputation Management.  The extent of dissatisfaction from their customers is worst than the norm.  The company could have done everything right, and the unfortunate circumstances of the Kuga recall may have still been too much to bear.

Still, it’s never too late to start being truthful and straightforward.  Going forward, Ford South Africa should focus on those most affected, like their stakeholders and most directly impacted customers, who need assurance that they can trust the company going forward.

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