In Crisis Management

September 2015 - SubwayKudos to Subway for handling the Jared crisis the way it should be.  Because of their clear-headed and sensible approach to the circus around Jared Fogel’s guilty plea, they are laying the groundwork to move past the crisis.

I was recently interviewed by News 8 about the aftereffects of the crisis for Subway.  Here are the lessons I talked about in that interview that apply to all businesses going through a crisis:

1)   Develop and stick to a simple statement that separates your path from that of the offender and indicates that you are going back to business.  Subway did exactly that.  Here’s how I would have written it: “Subway has ended its relationship with Jared Fogel and is focusing its energies on delivering quality, healthy fresh food.”   By the way, I purposely added his last name to this statement to make the relationship seem more formal.  One name – Beyonce, Sting, Oprah – gives a sense of intimacy we’d rather avoid here.

2)   Stay away from long, heart-felt comments on the charges, no matter how disturbing they are.  Once you jump into “We are shocked and saddened by…” you put yourself in the middle of the story.  Save your outrage for meetings with colleagues and friends. Subway’s Facebook post on the day Jared appeared in court nicely straddles the line between concern and moving on: “Jared Fogle’s actions are inexcusable and do not represent our brand’s values. We had already ended our relationship with Jared.”

3)   Help franchisees get back to business.  The managers of Subway’s 44,183 restaurants are the face of the company to its customers.  Give them one, simple phrase that gets them to and through the crisis.  Make sure they understand that it’s counterproductive to talk about the shocking nature of the charges, even if customers bring them up.  No outrage.  No details.  Back to making sandwiches.  The phrase can go something like this: “Subway has ended its relationship with Jared Fogel.  What kind of veggies would you like on your foot-long?”

4)   Continue putting news out on your site and in social media that reminds people of what you do.  Subway’s site has news about them breaking a Guinness World Record for the most people making sandwiches simultaneously; a piece on the company receiving an A from the “Eat This, Not That” report and Entrepreneur naming them as one of the top franchisers for veterans.  Perfect!

While the circus surrounding Jared’s guilty plea deal was fast and furious, with wall-to-wall media coverage of his fateful trip down the court house steps, I expect the sound and light show to end as quickly as it began.

Subway will be back to doing what they do best without a hitch: asking us if we’d like guac with that.

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