International Business Communication blunders

1) JP Morgan/Chase - #AskJPM

This company was once my shining example of how to communicate effectively during the financial crisis. I am very sad to put them on this list given the quality of their communications team, but their #AskJPM fiasco ranks as one of the worst gaffes of the year. JPM’s marketing wizards decided to set up a Q&A on Twitter with superstar banker Jimmy Lee at the same time the bank was being hit with a $13-billion fine for its transgressions during the financial crisis. After 24, 000 tweets—arguably one of the fastest and most negative reactions to any major global brand on Twitter—they pulled the campaign and realized that maybe their reputation wasn’t what it once was.

My advice: Listen to your communications experts.

2) Lululemon - shifting blame

Sometimes I just say to myself, people are going to think I make this stuff up. When faced with a quality control problem around the sheerness of its new yoga pants, instead of trying to fix the problem, CEO Chip Wilson suggested on Bloomberg TV that it was merely the result of heavy women rubbing their thighs together because the pants were too tight for them. How much more insensitive can a person be when faced with a relatively minor issue?

My advice: Don’t blame customers for your mistakes, and know when to shut up!

3) Chick-fil-A - being unauthentic

Last year was a bad year for Chick-fil-A's communications, but this year they didn't make things better. My gripe with Chick-filA is that they don’t know how to leave well enough alone. Companies can certainly have opinions about gay marriage or any other subject, but they should try to stick to their guns and remain true to their beliefs. Instead, CEO Dan Cathy, who clearly supports the most traditional definition of marriage, decided to put the entire controversy back on the front burner by befriending Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. This only served to remind us of Chick-fil-A’s false Facebook accounts, its lies about the termination of the relationship with Jim Henson Co., and the entire Twitter controversy. It also called into question the veracity of Cathy’s beliefs.

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