The Samsung Case: Was it only the phones exploding?

Did you ever expect that an elite organization like Samsung would cause you waking up next to a nightstand that is on fire? Or even an airplane evacuation? Well I definitely did not. Unfortunately, this all did happen last year due to failures in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone batteries. Their batteries overheated and after that even exploded. Not only the first edition of this phone was catching fire, even the replacements were likely to cause a lot of damage. People got hurt, frightened and experienced a lot of discomfort. Off course a lot more happened, want to know every detail? Here is a timeline!

You might think that a crisis like this will have u huge negative effect on an organization and will even maybe end their elite reputation. And yes it could, only it did not for Samsung. Hereby I would like to use Samsung as an example of how an elite organization can save itself during the worst crisis and make sure that their reputation won’t explode like their phones.

The importance of PR
It is shown in this study that journalists have negative perceptions of PR, but actually 40-75% of what these journalists publish is directly influenced by the work of PR professionals. Scholars sometimes state that PR and journalism are two different things, but in fact they do overlap and need each other. Looking at one of the biggest events of the century, the 9-11 tragedy, we have a clear example of the importance of PR during times of crisis. This 2004’ study shows the negative impact this enormous crisis had on tourism agencies. Actually 25% op these organizations in the New York area used PR professionals to give statements to improve their status and indeed decreased the damage.

How to save your organization with communication
Every organization hopes that a crisis such as what happened with Samsung will never happen to them, but when it does you need to know how to survive. I like to use the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT), discussed by the magnificent Dr. Coombs, to illustrate the two-step process that should be used of in times of crisis.
Crisis cluster. By identifying the crisis type, you can identify the amount and sort of responsibility. By doing so, the organization can anticipate on the crisis with the right communication. There are three clusters, namely the victim-, accidental- and preventable cluster. Samsung identified their crisis and used the accidental cluster as the base for their crisis communication.
Response strategy. After identifying the right cluster, the response strategy can be selected. Samsung used the excuse strategy. This means that they denied that they had any intent to harm anyone, by for example stating, according to a lot of media, that safety is their top priority.

Samsung always remained in the same statements and beliefs, they only gave pure facts, a lot of information and made themselves vulnerable. This may be why the media in general were really neutral and definitely not negative about Samsung. The media content aligned with the statements Samsung gave itself, which decreased the damage and made sure that Samsung is still the elite organization as it always has been.

Be like Samsung
– Choose your cluster and strategy (in other words: Listen to Dr. Coombs)
– Stick with it
– Be honest
– Never underestimate your PR professional’s power

About the author
Helen van der Weij – 25 year old Master student Corporate Communication at the University of Amsterdam.

 

5 Replies to “The Samsung Case: Was it only the phones exploding?”

  1. Catching start!

    Clear structure and I like how you use the theory of Coombs (“magnificant Dr. Coombs” love it haha). But maybe you can describe the incident of Samsung a bit more because you write about the incident like we all know the specifics of it (maybe because we have discussed it in the past?) and then link it to the theory of Coombs.

    I really like your final paragraph. Fun and strong ending of your blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *