Your company is about to walk into a PR firestorm. The management has the luxury of seeing it coming well before the controversy, so they work closely with their crisis PR counselors to implement a strong crisis management plan. A fire drill is run to make sure any flaws in the plan are fixed, and the company’s staff are briefed and trained on handling angry customers. All systems are go, says the management.
The big day arrives, and sure enough, the story dominates the media cycle. Customer backlash is bitter and persistent. Analysts mock the company, call the management idiots, claim that customers will flock to competitors, and predict the company’s demise.
Our advice? Don’t listen to them, Netflix.
Yes, that same Netflix that did the unthinkable in this slump economy and raised their prices by 60 percent. The horror! And they sprung the changes to their movie rental service plans out of nowhere. The online reaction was swift and nearly uniform. People were (are?) angry and unnerved.
The immediate reaction might be to view this as a big crisis PR situation. But if you take a deep breath and really consider the circumstances, we would argue that Netflix has actually done a stellar job on the public relations front.
First, even with the massive price increase, Netflix remains more or less the best choice cost and selection-wise. So the simple fact is the numbers speak for themselves. As David Pogue effectively summarizes, Netflix has “gone from an extreme terrific value – to an average one.”
Second, Netflix gave a thorough rundown of all the price changes, instead of letting customers find out the hard way with higher than expected bills in the mail.
Third, Netflix is sticking with its guns, and did so like a smart nightclub bouncer – polite, but firm. The pressure can certainly be tremendous to backtrack on very well-evaluated communications decisions. However, if a business has run the numbers and knows it has no choice, then you gotta hold your nose and go all-in. That’s exactly what Netflix did, and we’re willing to predict that this controversy will be quickly behind them.
You can certainly criticize Netflix for the many stinkers in its streaming movie catalog. But on the PR front? Not so fast.