Michael Wangbickler on June 1st, 2009

PR FAILNew Vine Logistics, probably the largest direct-to-consumer fulfillment house in the business, shuttered their doors on Friday, May 29. The news has been all over the Blogotwittersphere the last couple of days. The overall impact of such an event is still being hotly debated with arguments ranging from “eh, won’t affect much” to “OMG! The sky is falling!” Since I’m not a reporter, nor have I been closely studying NVL over the years, I can’t add much information as to what is really going on. What I will address, however, is how the situation was handled by NVL on the PR side, and what wineries can do to deal with the situation.

First and foremost, let’s take a look at how the PR was handled on the part of NVL. Did the company make a public statement? Not exactly. How did most of us hear about the news? Twitter, blogs, and winebusiness.com. According to winebusiness.com, NVL did send an email to their clients stating, “New Vine will no longer be able to receive and/or process any further orders for shipment from its facility and will be shutting down the ability to submit orders electronically through New Vine Online.” Ok, good first step. What’s going to happen now? They haven’t been as forthcoming with that little tidbit. No press release, no letter to the public, no statement on their website, nothing. PR FAIL! It isn’t clear at this point whether NVL will permanently go under, or whether this is a temporary hiccup. If the later, then they may have done irreparable harm to their public image going forward. Since they didn’t offer any more info than what they did, they look like they don’t care (or worse, are hiding something) and therefore customers will less likely be as trusting going forward.

Ok, now, what should customers of NVL do now? Other than the obvious solution of looking for another vendor to take the place of NVL, what should they do on the PR front?

  1. Send a letter to customers – first and foremost, contact anyone with pending orders and let them know of the situation and why their shipment may be delayed. If you have a wine club shipment coming up soon, contact members and let them know. Be open and honest, and you will have the support of your loyal customers.
  2. Internal statement – Inform your employees of the situation and what you intend to do about it. Make sure you prepare everyone to answer questions from customers, partners, and media.
  3. Public statement – Send a press release (or even better, a social media release) stating the situation and what you intend to do to find alternatives. Give people a contact person for any questions. Post it to the website and allow for visitors to comment.
  4. Use the opportunity – Use the opportunity to remind people what products you have to offer and how they may be ordered.

The whole goal is COMMUNICATE with your various publics. By being up front about it, you head off any potential crisis. Hell, you might even get a few new customers out of the deal.

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6 Responses to “Crisis Communications and New Vine Logistics”

  1. Notice the wtn services fulfillment company owned by 1800flowers has been agrerssively responding on the pr front. Reaffirming their position on quality, scale and financial stability as they immediately issued a press release on the situation to cal fears. The WTN General manager sent a calming yet affirming press statment of his teams condolences.

  2. So far no one has mentioned the employees who were let go on Friday, without their final checks or vacation time. New Vine has kept a skeleton crew, but they are being told day by day if they can expect to get paid or not. They have also been given no confirmation if they will in fact be paid for last week, or just this week. New Vine did a poor job communicating both with the wine industry and it’s employees. Someone needs to hold upper managment responsible for this breakdown in both their business model and comminication. They are the ones to blame for what has happened. Hopefully they will see the error in their ways, and take care of the employees who have helped get them this far. They are not the ones to blame here. If it is important for the wineries to get their wine out of the warehouse, help get the employees paid so they stick around long enough for you to see that happen.

  3. Maryann: WTN was very smart and quick to react. That is how it’s done.

    Anonomys: Very good point. The breakdown in communications was not just external but internal as well. Some say that NVL may continue if they can get their financing figured out, but I doubt they will be able to bounce back from this. Mis-management is not an attractive investment.

  4. To comment on the PR and communication around New Vine Logistics: the events that occurred (a major investor backed out Friday which was unexpected and not predicted). As a favor to Kathleen Hoertkorn, this morning I drafted a statement which we sent to appropriate news media and blogs and which is also posted on my web site: http://www.cmilancomm.com/news/20090602.html. Any subsequent updates will be posted on my site NVL’s site as soon as possible.

    Please note that any communication/PR work from my company or me is purely pro bono.

    The priority for New Vine is to return the wine to their customers and take care of their employees.

    Please note that I will not be able to respond directly to individual questions, but until NVL has a more permanent communications solution, I will do the best I can to convey whatever information I have.

  5. The biggest question at this point is when the employees can expect their checks. It has been 96 hours since they were let go, and still no answers. Several wineries have paid New Vine to get their wine out, yet no attempt has been made to contact the employees or update them on the status. I am sure the investor did not just “pull out” on Friday. This crisis has been in the works for quite some time, and no one should believe this was as abrupt as one day. It takes longer than a day for a company to unravel. Without the employees, the wineries will have a hard time getting their wine. How long do you think people will continue to work for free?

  6. I like this blog very much.

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