The context of this situation was that I am public relations consultant for Grand Northern Railroad, a railroad company located in the North East (same scenario as the feature article). As a consultant to Grand Northern the senior level managers sought my counsel in regards to the problems they are facing within their organization. There has been a swarm of negative publicity around Grand Northern’s train system in light of their latest locomotive issues. My duty was to analyze the situation at hand and come up with the best piece of strategic communication to respond to the situation.
The situation being dealt with is as follows:
“The Grand Northern Railroad couldn’t get a break. In the summer came the floods. In the winter came the snow. In between came the cows mistaking the GN tracks for grazing land. For the 50,000 commuters who depended on the Grand Northern to get them to and from work each day, it meant perpetual and massive delays. The GN – or as it was derisively labelled by its riders, the Grand Nuisance – was a laughingstock.
One afternoon, Grand Northern’s president decided to take action. He called a press conference. “From now on’, he told the skeptical journalists, “this railroad will run on time every time. We will make a concerted effort to improve all phases of our customer service. You’re going to see a real change in this railroad.” He went on to announce a special program that would award bonuses to staff members demonstrating superior service to customers.
The next morning, sixteen miles from its destination, in the middle of an expansive open field miles from civilization, the GN Mainliner – pride of the GN fleet – sputtered miserably, coughed one last puff of steam, and collapsed with a groan leaving hundreds of irate commuters to ponder their morning headline: “Grand Northern Promises ‘Real Change’ for Passengers.”
The best tactic to reach our affected passengers, stake holders, and employees is to deliver speech immediately following the incident. It is important that GNR is the first to comment on the incident so that the media has no time to contort their own story. The purpose of this speech is to take responsibility for the accident, apologize to the affected parties, assure the public that no one was harmed, and to focus on what Grand Northern has already begun to do. It is important to speak about the changes that are already in progress so that no more false promises are made.
Grand Northern Railroad Speech
Good Afternoon, thank you everyone who was able to make it to this impromptu meeting.
First off I would like to give my sincerest apology to those who were negatively impacted by today’s delay.
I can assure you that no passengers or employees were harmed. Thanks to the direction of our trained staff all passengers were escorted off the train. Passengers were moved to a different train and to their respective destinations within 40 minuets.
The customer service department began working with ticketing office to refund all passengers aboard the train today. This morning the GN team mailed travel vouchers to all impacted parties for 7 free round trip train rides
It is embarrassing mistake that we take full responsibility for. Our mainliner was cleared for operation without being properly inspected by our new locomotive engineers.
On account of this the train suffered a series of small mechanical issues causing it to over heat and stop in its tracks – literally.
Being business people ourselves everyone at Grand Northern recognizes the importance of timeliness and we are very sorry for the inconveniences that we have caused passengers today and in the past.
Today served as a wake up call for everyone at GN and we are determined to change our image and build up your confidence in us.
As most of you know we have began construction on the new fencing system which will extend along the length of the entire track. This will prevent the cows which we have seen countless mornings using our train tracks as their grazing pasture.
Building plans for the rest of the updates to the railroad tracks and train station have been approved and will be implemented in the coming month. By the end of November Grand Northern will have an irrigation system to address the flooding issue we faced last Spring.
The excess water will be rerouted away from the tracks and into a well under ground. Come winter GN will have brand new heated tracks cutting down on ice build up.
We are not going to sway our customers by making more empty promises we are going to sway you based on results.
For now we are going to continue to focus on the training of our staff so that they can stay well equipped to handle difficult situations as they present themselves.
We apologize again and look forward to the new changes Grand Northern is making.