Crisis Comms: Netflix Apology?

If you subscribe to Netflix, no doubt you received an email from Reed Hastings, CEO and Co-Founder of Netflix.

The subject line was “An Explanation and Some Reflections.”

It should have been titled, An Apology.

To be fair, his first line is, “I messed up.” His second line should have been, “I apologize.” Instead, it was, “I owe everyone an explanation.”

Too Little, Too Late

Hastings waited TWO MONTHS to address the problems subscribers had with their new pricing plan. During that time, ONE MILLION people unsubscribed AND Netflix’s stock price plummeted. (In July it traded at a high of $304.79. Late last week it closed at $169.25.)

After all of that time, a smart person would lead with a HUGE mea culpa. Nope. He was full of explanations for the change. He explained how the company was splitting into two separate businesses–streaming and DVD delivery. And he apologized IF people thought “we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes.”

In short, it was a carefully worded statement. He could see why you might be offended. But that wasn’t his intent. If you were offended, he apologizes.

WRONG ANSWER! Hastings might have gotten away with that right after it happened. But now– TWO MONTHS later. After you’ve lost more than ONE MILLION subscribers and your stock price has been cut in half? Really?

I beg of you, get some media training. Listen to the public relations professionals that I am sure have been screaming in your ear for many weeks. You might still be able to salvage something from this mess. I’ll even get the ball rolling for you.

Town Hall Meeting

Hold a town hall meeting and invite your subscribers. Let them give you the verbal lashing you so richly deserve for mishandling the new pricing scheme and everything that has followed. Be real! Be honest. Talk to your attorneys about what you can and can’t say. (I suspect that may have something to do with your carefully worded statement.) But it will cost you nothing to say: I was wrong. I mishandled this. I should have explained this better. I should not have assumed that everyone would agree with this new pricing system. And you know what happens when you assume. You make an a$$ out of you and me. And that’s exactly what I did.

By way of apology, I am going to give all of our current subscribers 30 days free access to both the streaming and DVD services. After 30 days, please choose a plan that you think will best meet your viewing needs. If after 30 days, you decide that you no longer want to subscribe to Netflix, I understand. But believe me when I tell you, we will do everything in our power to win you back.

Real. Honest. To the point.

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