However, as a PR Director, I realized I must be the one who stays calmest in this kind of situation. Everyone in the team turned to me asking for what they should do and I could not disappoint my teammates.
That night, I sat down and typed the first lines in my media crisis plan, being obsessed over only one question: we did not do anything unethically, but would the world believe us if the words were spread out? That was the first time I truly understood that telling the truth does not guarantee people’s trust, but how you deliver it does.
First of all, I sent Sugoi the last compromising email which repeated our regulations and reaffirmed that we would do our best to organize a fair competition but they must have proper evidence before accusing us or any other team. They did not agree and sent us another email, in which they blamed us for not having clear instruction and threatened to sue our case for MIT’s Board of School where the competition was held.
As they threatened to make it public, I decided that it would be better if we provided the information first. Being honest and sincere since the beginning would help to minimize the damage as people could see that we were transparent the whole time. I published a post and commented on Facebook explaining everything so that the audience could understand why we had to delete Sugoi’s comments. At the same time, I constantly informed my team members of what was happening and advised them to stay calm. They should neither post any negative thought on their personal Facebook nor discuss this matter with the outsiders. We tried to keep the information clear and consistent. Those who had questions, especially the media, should be referred to the PR team only.
After the Regulations department checked and made sure that we did everything properly, I sent Sugoi another email which clarified that no one should be guilty until proven and that they should have contacted us before flooding our Facebook page and insulting the other team. They denied with the reason that they had contacted us in terms of regulations many times but no one answered. One more time, I sent all of our collected screenshots, facts and evidence to show that their reason was false. After ample emails back and forth, finally, we made the decision that we could not tolerate this anymore. We gave the final warning that if they did not comply with our regulations and kept having a hostile attitude, we must disqualify them out of the competition as well as any VietChallenge’s future events. If they did not stop insulting the other team and us in the public, we would have to contact the U.S.’s, Japan’s, and Vietnam’s authorities.
Photo: Internet and me 🙂