Crisis Communications Fail: How EA Sports' Bad Public Relations Turned A Molehill into A Mountain

EA Sports made an error

I’d like to share with you a public relations nightmare I’m witnessing first hand.

When I have a bit of free time, I like to play online games.  My game of choice is Tiger Woods Online by EA Sports.  I like it because I can just fire it up on my browser without having to worry about any additional hardware.   The problem is, I can’t just reset it when there’s a glitch.

Like today.

See, with online games, the developers feel that if the game isn’t constantly updated, people will get bored and they’ll lose their jobs.  For EA Sports this means an update every week or so.

Now it’s a good thought to keep the game fresh, but in reality more updates means more glitches that need fixin’.  In this case the glitch is that no one can play any of the tournaments, which is why we play in the first place.

To fully understand the issue I’ve posted a bit of the timeline for the announcement of the update.  It starts with…

11/15/2010 15:06:14            Subject:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
Excellent right?  But shortly after comes this message from a player.
11/16/2010 05:37:02          Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
URGENT – Since update, cannot load tournaments. Load stopping at confirming log in. Please check this out.
Now that’s a problem, but I’m sure that a huge company will be all over this issue, letting us know what’s happening. 

Ummmmm.  Let’s fast forward MORE THAN 24 HOURS LATER.

11/17/2010 06:37:12              Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
I cant play in Full screen now either. Longest drive missing from Friends’ contest, no EXP from making the cut, cant play tourneys, etc…. How is this an update? Maybe the reason we havent heard from EA is because they are working on a fix
Well yes, I’m sure they are working on a fix.  But I’m afraid the damage has been done. 

Why?

Simply put, a company must never, ever, neglect their customers.  This means you need to keep them updated.  Always.

I know.  I can hear it now.  “But they’re in the middle of a crisis.”

Doesn’t matter.  In fact, it is critical that you utilize your public relations during a crisis in order to keep your customers informed.

Let me explain.

What makes a crisis so bad for a company?  It’s the uncertainty.  How bad is the problem?  Is there anything that can be done?  Who’s working on this?  When will things get back to normal?  People need reassurance that a company is working to fix whatever problem they’re having or else they panic.  Or get angry.

When people don’t hear from a company like EA Sports about a problem for more than 24 hours, uncertainty creeps in and people start coming to their own conclusions about what’s happening.  And that’s always bad news for the company.

How do you stop it?  You keep people updated.  Frequently.  You let them know what the issues are.  What problems you’re having, and most importantly, what you’re doing to fix it.

You control the message.  EA Sports didn’t do this and it’s killing them.

Is EA Sports working to try and fix this?  I’m sure they are.  But how do we know?  We don’t and now people are posting things like this….

The lack of a fix in 24 hours is bad enough, but what is losing me as a supporter of EA is the total lack of response in 24 hours.  Not a word… NOTHING. As many have said before this post, this failure to communicate is totally UNACCEPTABLE. 

I don’t post here often because I’ve felt some progress has been being made but this incident shows that I’ve been a fool. What EA has failed to realize is that if you take the heroin away, a crack dealer will soon fill the void. And right now I’m Jones-in for a game and will be checking out the other new golf options. Thanks, EA, for cutting me off….

And come renewal time, my one subscription won’t make them pay attention…. but if we get 1,000 of us organized and ready to boycott come April, well I guarantee you $50,000 worth of subscriptions will make someone start paying attention….

I’m done enabling EA’s crap behavior and poor decisions..gonna see some tough love from now on until they kick their bad habits with TWO members.

The goal is 1,000. Count off.

1.

Yikes. 

If only they had kept their customers informed.  A simple lesson, so expensively learned.

So a lesson for all you businesses that may face a crisis in the future (that’s pretty much all of you).  Don’t neglect your public relations in a crisis.  Customers understand mistakes.  All they want is some reassurances that you care and that you’re trying to make things better.

If you don’t give them that, well they’ll go to someone who will.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

Crisis Communications Fail: How EA Sports’ Bad Public Relations Turned A Molehill into A Mountain

EA Sports made an error

I’d like to share with you a public relations nightmare I’m witnessing first hand.

When I have a bit of free time, I like to play online games.  My game of choice is Tiger Woods Online by EA Sports.  I like it because I can just fire it up on my browser without having to worry about any additional hardware.   The problem is, I can’t just reset it when there’s a glitch.

Like today.

See, with online games, the developers feel that if the game isn’t constantly updated, people will get bored and they’ll lose their jobs.  For EA Sports this means an update every week or so.

Now it’s a good thought to keep the game fresh, but in reality more updates means more glitches that need fixin’.  In this case the glitch is that no one can play any of the tournaments, which is why we play in the first place.

To fully understand the issue I’ve posted a bit of the timeline for the announcement of the update.  It starts with…

11/15/2010 15:06:14            Subject:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
Excellent right?  But shortly after comes this message from a player.
11/16/2010 05:37:02          Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
URGENT – Since update, cannot load tournaments. Load stopping at confirming log in. Please check this out.
Now that’s a problem, but I’m sure that a huge company will be all over this issue, letting us know what’s happening. 

Ummmmm.  Let’s fast forward MORE THAN 24 HOURS LATER.

11/17/2010 06:37:12              Subject:Re:Weekly Update – 11/16/10
I cant play in Full screen now either. Longest drive missing from Friends’ contest, no EXP from making the cut, cant play tourneys, etc…. How is this an update? Maybe the reason we havent heard from EA is because they are working on a fix
Well yes, I’m sure they are working on a fix.  But I’m afraid the damage has been done. 

Why?

Simply put, a company must never, ever, neglect their customers.  This means you need to keep them updated.  Always.

I know.  I can hear it now.  “But they’re in the middle of a crisis.”

Doesn’t matter.  In fact, it is critical that you utilize your public relations during a crisis in order to keep your customers informed.

Let me explain.

What makes a crisis so bad for a company?  It’s the uncertainty.  How bad is the problem?  Is there anything that can be done?  Who’s working on this?  When will things get back to normal?  People need reassurance that a company is working to fix whatever problem they’re having or else they panic.  Or get angry.

When people don’t hear from a company like EA Sports about a problem for more than 24 hours, uncertainty creeps in and people start coming to their own conclusions about what’s happening.  And that’s always bad news for the company.

How do you stop it?  You keep people updated.  Frequently.  You let them know what the issues are.  What problems you’re having, and most importantly, what you’re doing to fix it.

You control the message.  EA Sports didn’t do this and it’s killing them.

Is EA Sports working to try and fix this?  I’m sure they are.  But how do we know?  We don’t and now people are posting things like this….

The lack of a fix in 24 hours is bad enough, but what is losing me as a supporter of EA is the total lack of response in 24 hours.  Not a word… NOTHING. As many have said before this post, this failure to communicate is totally UNACCEPTABLE. 

I don’t post here often because I’ve felt some progress has been being made but this incident shows that I’ve been a fool. What EA has failed to realize is that if you take the heroin away, a crack dealer will soon fill the void. And right now I’m Jones-in for a game and will be checking out the other new golf options. Thanks, EA, for cutting me off….

And come renewal time, my one subscription won’t make them pay attention…. but if we get 1,000 of us organized and ready to boycott come April, well I guarantee you $50,000 worth of subscriptions will make someone start paying attention….

I’m done enabling EA’s crap behavior and poor decisions..gonna see some tough love from now on until they kick their bad habits with TWO members.

The goal is 1,000. Count off.

1.

Yikes. 

If only they had kept their customers informed.  A simple lesson, so expensively learned.

So a lesson for all you businesses that may face a crisis in the future (that’s pretty much all of you).  Don’t neglect your public relations in a crisis.  Customers understand mistakes.  All they want is some reassurances that you care and that you’re trying to make things better.

If you don’t give them that, well they’ll go to someone who will.

*(If you’re interested in my services you can go here for more information.)

Public Relations Fail: How Not to Prepare for an Interview

You just did what?

As a former reporter and current public relations professional, there are situations that come up that just make me shake my head and wonder, “what were they thinking?’

This is one of those examples.  (Apparently it was taken down by Clear Channel, but you can see more here or here, and for a picture of the sent email go here.)

You see, KOA Radio is a large radio station here in Denver and every politician wants to be on their airwaves.  Needless to say, the reporters and hosts know their business and how to conduct an interview.  The last thing these professional reporters want is to have the P.R. people for a guest to suggest questions for them to ask, particularly when they are similar to these…

Q. In what ways are you a better choice for this seat?

Q. What do you bring to the Senate

Q. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Q. How’s life on the campaign trail?  Are you having fun?

Yikes!

So here is a bit of advice when preparing your client for an interview.

DON’T SEND QUESTIONS TO REPORTERS!!!!!

You see, the vast majority of reporters are professionals who really do take their business seriously.  Feeding a reporter questions does five things.

1.  Gives the reporter the impression that you think they aren’t good at their job, that you feel you have to help them, and that you have no respect for them.

2.  Gives the reporter the impression that your client is so stupid that they can’t even have a conversation without being given the answers ahead of time.

3.  Ensures, without a doubt, that the reporter will ask tougher questions then they normally would have.

4.  Ensures, without a doubt, that none of the questions you give them will be asked.

5.  Ensures, without a doubt, that you will be mocked publicly.

Here’a a better way to get ready for that interview.  Spend your time prepping your client.  Put the hardest questions you can think of to your client and then critique the answers.  This will do more to make sure your client looks good than trying to rig the interview.

So next time you have an interview planned, take my advice.  Save yourself from an epic public relations fail.  Prepare your client and not the reporter.   Believe me, you’ll thank me for it later.