Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What should Uber do?

An Uber executive is under investigation for allegedly floating the idea of hiring opposition researchers to dig up information on journalists who are overly critical of the rideshare service.

To no one's surprise, journalists and bloggers have pounced on the story (and now I am one of them I know), CNBC (along with other media) covered the story throughout the past few days, and even Minnesota Senator Al Franken has confronted Uber and requested the company re-evaluate its privacy policy.

So, what should Uber do?

1. Stay away from Twitter when apologizing. 

For some unknown reason, Twitter has become the default venue to issue an apology to the world. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick conducted a Twitter storm in order to attempt an apology, and ended with 13 Tweets. Apologizing in 144 characters or less per Tweet just doesn't add up to a most effective way to share your remorse and take responsibility.

Most companies have web sites -- issue your apology there.

His first Tweet -- "Emil's comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company." 

He then went on to issue another 12 Tweets in which he made multiple efforts to distance the company from Emil yet it took the 13th Tweet to apologize directly to the reporter that Emil was speaking about at dinner. However, no where else do I see an apology. It was really more of an effort to turn the talk to the positive side of Uber.

2. Apologize.

Kalanick should have said the following instead:

"Uber wants to apologize to @sarahcuda for the recent comments made by our executive Emil. We take full responsibility for his words and actions since he is an executive with Uber. We are deeply sorry for what he said, and more importantly, we are sorry he felt it was okay to say it in the first place. It is obvious we must work harder to instill in Emil the values we hold dear here at Uber. Also, we must ensure that each one of our employees and drivers understand the Uber way of business.

We also apologize to our customers because we understand this impacts you too. We value the trust you have placed in us and we will strengthen our resolve to restore, rebuild and further that trust you have in us. We have made a mistake and hope you will give us a chance to make up for it. We believe we should do the same for Emil, and hope you understand that we believe we can do more for Emil by keeping him at Uber than by simply letting him go.

We are undertaking two immediate steps in light of this. First, all of our employees and drivers will undergo further training to ensure they understand, agree with, and exude the true values we have here at Uber. We will report out once we have finished this first step publicly. Second, we are reaching out directly to Sarah in order to properly apologize to her in addition to our public one issued here. We will allow her to decide whether or not she would like to share it publicly, however we will not.

We are doing great things at Uber, and our hope is that we can learn from this mistake in order to build an even better Uber."

3. Be humble, be authentic, be vulnerable, and be consistent.

Kalanick needs to understand that the next few days, weeks and months will define the next few years for Uber.

Be humble -- take the beating that may come and understand it was self-inflicted.

Be authentic -- allow the public relations team to edit for grammar not for messaging. The message needs to originate from Kalanick and carry his voice.

Be vulnerable -- now is the time to be open and accessible, and it is okay to not have all the answers or solutions.

Be consistent -- each time you must maintain the humility, authenticity, and vulnerability, and only then can trust have a chance to be restored.

4. Did I mention to stay away from Twitter?

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