Only 13 days in 2014 and Target and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie share the spotlight for worst public image of the new year.
Target credit information theft just keeps getting worse. We learned last week that data was stolen for 70 million Target customers, not 40 million as belatedly reported earlier this month. Target is averaging over one sales-killing announcement a week so far this year and each new announcement makes the crisis worse. There are people who say Target will survive, but if someone were going to attempt to kill a leading corporate retail organization, this would be the way to do it.
It’s not like Target has no competition. Making customers worry of whether their credit data is safe when they shop is not a unique experience desired by any retail store. Add the but-wait-it-gets-worse element and sales are bound to sink.
Target will likely continue to minimize the crisis, which will only increase the distrust of the brand. The PR strategy they are following is going to dig them into a deeper grave.
Not to be outdone, Governor Chris Christie is dropping his own PR boob bombs. After claiming that a traffic tie up at the George Washington Bridge was part of a legitimate traffic study, he then was forced to confront emails that clearly indicated his top aides were involved in Nixon-era tactics aimed at some type of petty revenge act.
The issue is not whether or not Governor Christie knew that his senior staff were behaving like chimpanzees throwing their poop at people in the zoo, the issue is Christie is either 1) incompetent for surrounding himself with idiots, and/or, 2) incompetent for not knowing what was going on, or, 3) aware of everything and is lying about it.
The big PR factors in both crises are the lack of humility and accepting responsibility. Instead of minimizing the crisis, Target should have been ahead of the crisis. Not only should they be providing the most accurate and honest information, they should have been apologizing to their customers, assisting them, and offering to make things right for any customer who is affected by the loss of their credit data. This is an issue of long-term survivability, not revenue projections for the current quarter.
As for Governor Christie, that ship has sailed. He had a chance to accept responsibility and resign. His, the-buck-stops-here-but-I’m-blaming-everyone-else strategy only proved that he has dignity of Lance Armstrong. He could have admitted his mistakes, stepped back, and then worked to rebuild his reputation, but he instead he revealed how low he can go.
Public image is everything, and it does not suffer fools gladly.