Friday, March 14, 2008

What Not To Do In A Crisis

It's been four days since I posted here on the situation at NCP.

I ended that post with the following suggestion:

Poorly managed e-publishing operations have gone out of business with depressing regularity over the past two years. NCP needs to focus on convincing its authors that the problems they've identified are being addressed and will shortly be a thing of the past.

Instead of paying heed, NCP ignored the warning signs of a coming tsunami. On Wednesday, the whole sorry mess emerged on the Dear Author website here.

Yesterday, the first wave of that tsunami hit the beach. The comment trail became increasingly ugly as more and more writers came forward to add to the NCP saga.

To save time, let's all just agree at the outset that the NCP author liaison is not the customer service ideal. Instead of recognizing this and muffling the man, someone left a back door open at NCP and he escaped. The poor soul ran right to Dear Author and posted a soliloquy that included the following gem:

Years ago, we let some authors out of their contracts early and what happened. A loud mouthed flag-waver led a slew of inexperienced authors with her to Triskilon and a couple of other now defunct e-pubs. I have to admit it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling all over. NCP is not exploding internally. Even though 2007 was a bad year for retail sales nationwide, we still grew by 7%.

While you’re absorbing the shock of his glee at competitors going out of business, let me ramble for a minute or two.

I am a huge NPR fan. It plays in the background whether I’m in my office at the university or working on a manuscript at home.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Two days ago on Wednesday, I listened to an interview on my local NPR station about a new non-fiction book titled The Age of Engage: Reinventing Marketing. I’ve since purchased the book written by Denise Shiffman.

Among the things Ms. Shiffman says is that, in a digital age, companies must be continuously connected in real time to their markets. In years past (pre-Internet), when a company experienced a PR disaster, they retreated behind closed doors and worked on their strategy for containment. Days later, they would emerge to do damage control.

In today’s world this is the worst possible strategy. Shiffman urges companies to immediately come forward, fess up and talk about how they intend to fix the problem. Sort of the same approach I advocated on Sunday.

Instead, using a retro strategy, it appears NCP retreated behind closed doors—whether to work on a containment plan or just to ignore the whole mess, we can only speculate.

Then someone left a window open, James evaded his keepers, shimmied down a drainpipe and became the public voice of the e-publisher.

I almost want to send my new copy of The Age of Engage to the NCP owners. Or perhaps we could take up a collection to buy a copy for them. It's likely they'll be tightening their financial belts in the near future.

No comments: