Crisis Communication at Nuance
The modern business environment makes companies face a wide array of both internal and external challenges that may result in the drastic decrease in their competitiveness as well as profitability and even their liquidation. Among them is the case of the Nuance Group that has been convicted of spreading the false information by one of its potential customers – Dorfman Associates. To mitigate the negative effect of such discovery, the company has to resort to the crisis communication measures. Therefore, the following paper focuses on the analysis of the case of the Nuance Group and identification of bottlenecks in the organizational culture and ethical communication in the company. Additionally, it provides a set of recommendations for the creation of a crisis communication plan that will allow avoiding further damages, mitigating the negative effects of the error, and restoring the image of the company.
The crisis at the Nuance Group was caused by the low level of the organizational culture of the company, as well as the failure to make the employees adhere to the code of the corporate ethics. Its severity is determined by the following factors. To start with, the company has been convicted of spreading false information by its potential customer. By taking into account the conditions of conviction (the personal acquaintance of the representatives of both organizations), it is clear that this fact cannot be denied. In turn, the reputation of the Nuance Group on the local level has been soiled. Moreover, at least 50,000 brochures containing this information have been sent to the potential clients all over the world. In case the described event receives wide publicity, the company will lose its credibility on the global level, meaning its overall competitiveness, and, therefore, profitability will decrease drastically. Thus, it is clear that the crisis at the Nuance Group is quite severe.
Considering the fact that the distribution of false information at the Nuance Group was not limited to a single case (i.e. many employees have submitted fabricated personal data), one can reasonably assume that several components of the company’s organizational culture are underdeveloped and need immediate improvement. First of all, it is clear that the employees’ proactive behavior is not under the supervision of the management. It can manifest itself not only in the quality performance of their duties but also in the creative approach to solving the presented challenges. Such behavior involves a high activity and responsibility, and, therefore, can either promote business cooperation or destroy it by creating the unforeseen problems. To avoid this scenario, it must meet the following conditions. Firstly, the initiative must come from a competent worker. The risk must be justified, and the high professionalism of the employees serves as a guarantee of success. In the case of the Nuance Group, the competence of the workers was not high since the information on their skills was embellished. Secondly, the proactive behavior of employees should not impede the achievement of the main objectives of a company even if it demonstrated by a competent person. In the case of the Nuance Group, it has ruined the image of the company in the eyes of its potential customer. Finally, the proactive behavior involves a high responsibility. Therefore, the more initiative is the employee at work, the more responsible he should be. Considering how the employees carried out the orders regarding the creation of the brochures, it is possible to state that the responsibility of the staff of the Nuance Group is quite low. Moreover, the last fact makes one assume that the company has problems with subordination. On the one hand, the workers understand their position in the company. However, the instructions given by the superior management are interpreted loosely by them, resulting in the situations similar to the one described in the case.
At the same time, the organization’s standards of the ethical communication can be perceived as lacking, namely in the terms of morality, which is likely ignored both by the staff and managers. It is a well-known fact that morality is an essential condition for the formation and development of successful communication for an individual and any social community, including the enterprise. However, in the case of the Nuance Group, it is likely paid much less attention than required to this aspect. One can assume that it is perceived as something unnecessary for success by some of the workers. Of course, morality should be encouraged, but on the way to the goal, especially the meaningful one, the primary rule is to be frugal in everything. However, such form of pragmatism can be extremely detrimental as demonstrated by the case of the Nuance Group.
To avoid further damages to the reputation of the Nuance Group, as well as the corresponding financial losses, and restore its image, it is required to develop and implement a crisis communication plan. It should be noted that the complexity of communication in times of crisis is a result of the changing situation, meaning that some channels and methods of communication become ineffective. Some crises require tough and aggressive negotiation with the employees, customers, potential customers, and suppliers, while the other ones need collective creativity and the maximum involvement of the people in the process of decision-making. Failure to understand it can turn a crisis into a catastrophe, followed by the liquidation of the organization.
Thus, the first step of a plan involves the identification of the target audiences of the communication process, as well as the determination of their hierarchy (i.e. the order in which they are addressed). Additionally, it is required to determine the content of a message for each of the audiences. First and foremost, the Nuance Group must contact its potential customers, i.e. the people that have received the brochures. In their case, the message should include the acknowledgment of the distribution of false information. The reason for that is the fact that in case the error is uncovered, it will be obvious who is to blame. One of the best disarming steps in such case would be to admit a mistake and take measures to eliminate its negative effects, as well as take the responsibility. Despite the fact that the problem is not the fault of the company’s management, it is necessary to show that they are most disappointed because of it. Considering that no damage has been done to the people that have received the brochures yet, a simple notification of an error will be enough.
Next, the company must contact customers that have uncovered the fact of the distribution of false information – Dorfman Associates. The message must also be apologetic, but, in this case, it must describe the steps that are scheduled to take quick and effective solution. The reason for that is the fact that it may present problems to the leadership of the Nuance Group until its management is sure that the problem is solved. In many cases, they will want to hear exactly what is done to correct the situation, to decide whether it is feasible to continue the cooperation with the company. Thus, the message must contain an explanation of what is being done to ensure that such a situation does not happen again. The target audience will want to hear what will be done for the prevention of the problems, including the changes in policies, procedures, and personnel management. It is necessary to consider how to prove that the management of the organization works on identifying the problem and resolving it. Otherwise, customers will be discouraged and hostile, feeling that the Nuance Group perceives the problem lightly. They may put pressure on the management and staff until they are convinced that the organization has properly evaluated the significance of problems and threats. Finally, they realize that the problem will not be solved until the leaders of the organization do not recognize that it exists.
Additionally, when addressing the first two target audiences, it is important to remember that a crisis communication requires careful screening of the information that could harm the company’s business reputation and make its stakeholders doubt the capabilities and talents of its senior managers. It is clear that this negative information is to be dispensed to produce optimistic rather than the catastrophic expectations. Otherwise, the information about the state of affairs in the organization can cause panic among clients, creditors, investors, shareholders, and other influential stakeholders, resulting in the loss of control over the situation.
Finally, the company must address its employees. In this case, the message must include the description of the causes of the crisis and emphasize its possible negative effect on the organization in general and each particular employee (namely those that are responsible for its emergence). The workers must understand that even something as minor as the distribution of the false personal information may result in the liquidation of the enterprise. Additionally, it is required to announce the measures regarding the change of the organizational culture and the code of ethics of the company, as well as point out the role of the employees in the process of their implementation.
The presented order of the target audiences is especially important. First of all, it is necessary to contact all the customers that have received the brochures to prevent the events similar to the one involving Dorfman Associates from repeating, avoid further damage, and try to get the situation under control. Next, it is required to contact Dorfman Associates to mitigate the existing negative effects of the distribution of the false information and point out the steps that are to be taken to correct the errors. Only after that, the company must address its employees and implement the measures that have been discussed previously. As a result, it will be possible to ensure that the management of the Nuance Group stays true to its word, and no measures that were not mentioned before will be implemented. In turn, this activity will have a positive effect on the image of the organization.
The communication process is to be carried out in the following ways. The potential customers are to be notified via e-mail, considering the fact they are located all over the world and are unlikely to be reached by any other means. The representatives of Dorfman Associates are to be informed in a way that ensures immediate feedback – via phone, Skype, or in the course of a personal meeting. Finally, the company’s employees must receive the required information in the course of the group meetings.
Thus, during a crisis communication process, it is important to manage a crisis as a process, as well as maintain a positive corporate image of the company. The company should be not only the source of the problem but also the key to its solution. Moreover, crisis opens up tremendous new possibilities. By managing it successfully, the company may demonstrate its positive attitude towards customers thus increasing its credibility. In order to restore the image of the Nuance Group, it is required to identify the problem, efficiently inform the stakeholders of it in a specific order, and define the ways of coping with it. All these actions must be carried out in accordance with the plan of crisis communication. Failure to comply with it may damage its reputation even further, ultimately resulting in its liquidation.