Home: Motoring > Automobile hot topic Q&A (Ep.184)

Lessons of “Gangsterdom PR” (Part 3)

From:Internet Info Agency 2018-11-26 17:35:21

Author:He Lun, IIA’s Co-Chief Content Officer, Deputy Head of IIA Academy of Auto

Automobile hot topic Q&A (Ep.184)


Q: After Geely and Great Wall Motor issued a joint statement, the incident of “Gangsterdom PR” has come to an abrupt end. What do you think is the reason behind this?

A: It might be the result of intervention of relevant departments whose order that the two sides must obey.

Q: What is the truth of this incident? What is the motive and the background of the suspect? Who is the black hand behind the incident? Or, just close file?

A: If the two sides continued to sue and dispute with each other, the only result will be a lose-lose. It will be a good result for both parties reconciling and learning lessons of this incident to promote a better competitive environment.

From the perspective of crisis management, some of the problems reflected in this incident are still worth introspecting.

Q: In the last interview, we’ve talked about the role a chairman should play in crisis management. What are your comments about chairman of Geely, Li Shufu’s internal remarks which were titled with Calm down in this complicated world?

Full text screenshot of the internal remarks on Weibo

A: First of all, I think that it was not appropriate to push the chairman onto the stage at this time. To issue an official statement by the PR department on official web will be enough. In particular, in the case of multiple sides involved in the incident, who did this and whether they are relevant to Geely or not still have no conclusion, so are the complicated relationship, as I mentioned before, between the Internet trolls and the black hand. However, stakeholders and the outsiders regarded that there were problems in this incident. It is not a so-called chairman’s internal remarks can get things done. In case of changes in the situation, it will not be easy for chairman to retreat. Then it will be awkward.

Q: Li’s remarks is to confirm that this incident was not conducted by Geely. And it also aimed to point out that self-developed brands should jointly boost the competitiveness of Chinese cars but not confrontation, or we will be laughed at those foreign counterparts. Can we say that his intention was good?

A: Yes. But good intention came with a bad effect. The internal remark is more than 3,400 words, involving many aspects like internal compliance. In the context of the time, a short summary might be enough to indicate the position, attitude, and viewpoint of the chairman. Moreover, the summary must be carefully selected, fully considerate the possible reactions from outside parties, and stand in others’ shoes.

What you see may be not the completed remarks. Some of which don't have to be public, and some of which shouldn’t have been published. For example, more than 300 words in it saying that some enterprises have difficulties in business operations.

Q: But this is the truth, and mirrors strong personalities.

A: George W. Bush also has his own personality. He, with Vice President candidate Richard Bruce Cheney, once cursed a New York Times journalist “First-class bastard” who criticized him at a meeting. And Cheney responded by saying: "Yep! A big bastard.” However, they didn’t expect the microphone was still turned on. Then, their whisper was spread throughout the venue. James Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, once scolded a female voter "She was just a sort of BIGOTED woman who said she used to be Labour." But the microphone on him didn't turn off either. These all have posed a bad impact on them.

A big boss of a company is also human, not god. They can say whatever they like and even swearing others privately, because subordinates understand them, and their image will not be subverted only because of those rough words. But the public and other companies are not subordinates. They will have a variety of understandings and feel when they hear these words.

Just standing in others’ shoes, if you say so to other companies, can they understand your intention that you don’t want confrontations?

The leak of the internal remarks was the bad decision of the PR department. The result was counterproductive. Not only did it not cease the fire of the incident but added fuel to the fire. This is another lesson that has been left to the industry.

Q: Is it because the prestige of the chairman in the company has caused the PR department not to change the remarks?

A: Probably not. Their remarks are not from god. Not to mention internal remarks, mistakes in public speech should also be changed.

I remember that at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016, I said to the newly appointed Volkswagen Group Chairman Matthias Mueller that the top leaders of the group still owe an apology to Chinese consumers on the issue of Sagitar recall. He said that Prof. Dr. Jochem Heizmann, the president of Volkswagen China, is solely responsible for the Chinese business and can apologize on behalf of the Volkswagen Group and the board of directors. I said that Chinese consumers believe that the apology should be made by the top leaders of the Volkswagen Group. This is an attitude. In China, people always say that attitude determines everything. The on-site German interpreter did not understand and explain what I meant. The phrase "attitude determines everything" was omitted. Therefore, the apology was still made by Heizmann. Although he had already made apologies for several times, after the interview, I expressed dissatisfaction to their PR executives with the results of the interview. And later, Mueller’s apology was added into the interview records send to four Chinese reporters. That was the first time the Volkswagen Group’s top leader apologized to Chinese consumers for the recall incident.

I think that Volkswagen was professional in dealing with problems in this interview. Mueller and Heizmann were also cooperative. And Mueller, who was met for the first time, did not hold a grudge of me because of my unkind questions. On the contrary, we met and communicated frankly and happy for many times after that.

Title: Mueller, Volkswagen Global CEO:" Regaining trust is the most important!"

What impressed me most when I contact with Li Shufu was one thing at the Geely headquarters two years ago. After lunch, I told him about my opinion on the Emgrand logo and said, “This may touch your personal emotion." He said: "It’s fine. I can deny myself." I feel that this sentence is better than any lofty words of all entrepreneurs.

From the perspective of a company, Geely, as a large enterprise, must have a corresponding business procedure related to such a big event as the chairman’s public speech. With such procedure, the person in charge should also have the appropriate authority and necessary business abilities, or problems would appear. After all, this internal remark was released by the PR department rather than accidentally leaked through the microphone like Bush and Brown.

Q: Could you please communicate with us about the root of this incident next time?

A: Yes, sure!See you next time.

Editor:He Lun