Spinvox response - how to approach a media crisis

This is part 2 of a blog post we started yesterday, found here.

We aren't trying to attack Spinvox or kick them while we are down. One of our bloggers is a big fan of the service. However, the company's response during their media crisis is just too good a case study to pass up. This is one of the best examples I've seen in awhile of a technology company under fire, and maybe this story has been cooking for awhile, but for many readers, it came out of the blue. We can't resist but to analyse how the company has dealt with it.

And Spinvox brought a lot of this attention on itself by not responding for a whole day.

Last night, the company broke its silence on the TV news show SkyNews.com (that's what it's called - not a typo). And it did several more things wrong.

Here are the key elements that need to be in place to face a media crisis.

1. Act quickly. This means your management team needs to 'get along' and collaborate well on key messages. This is no time to show cracks. Waiting a day to respond shows cracks.
2. The PR team needs to be a driving force, not a team that's just along for the ride. There should be internal or external PR people ready to face a crisis by going on the offensive - quickly.
3. Any written response should be factual but should not read like classic corporate drivel, which is what Spinvox's blog post yesterday was.
4. The CEO should be offered up for comment, not a director of engineering as Spinvox offered. This is a defining moment in the company's history and no one other than the CEO is placed to deal with it.
5. The company should be extremely honest, and attack the allegations with numbers, statistics and facts. In this case, Spinvox's best response* (which we have yet to see) would be a graphical description of i) how many voicemails / what percentage are listened to ii) what sorts of info is usually in those voicemails - numbers, etc - that make it hard for the algorithms to work iii) exactly how their encryption engine works iv) exactly what the timeline of 'learning' looks like to prove that the 'learning' is actually that - and presumably over time decreases the number of VMs listened to.
*This is reprinted from our comments on Mobile Industry Review's insightful post about Spinvox from yesterday.
6. If a live broadcast is the first response, as with Spinvox on SkyNews.com last night, the spokesperson needs to come prepared with the above. Just giving vague statements like 'some voicemails are listened to' is merely dodging the issue and doesn't help fight the crisis.
7. Taking an attitude such as 'we're being attacked unnecessarily! Feel bad for us!" doesn't work and shouldn't even be considered.
8. The best PR team will view the crisis as an opportunity and figure out a way to make their offensive push messages that maybe weren't heard before.

If your PR team (and management team) is not able to withstand the pressure and deliver the above, you need to consider whether your technology company is prepared for a crisis.


  1. There's only one problem with the 'right' approach: what if the numbers that SpinVox could release are so bad that they are better off saying effectively nothing?

    If it worked, The Brain would be an extraordinary thing to have pulled off, so it would not be all that extraordinary to find out that it probably doesn't.

  2. Great comment, thanks. Their silence gives that very impression doesn't it?