A few years ago, I wrote on my blog about an interesting dilemma at “The New York Daily News.” What is more commonly known in New York as the “Daily News” is one of the most popular NYC Subway papers. On a weekly basis, the Daily News holds a “scratch and win game” with up to $100,000 in prizes. On on Saturday in March a few years ago, there were hundreds - or perhaps thousands - of ecstatic people throughout Manhattan. Unfortunately, due to a printing error, there were a few thousand too many winners. And they were angry.
I can only imagine the editor’s concern and fear as hundreds of protesters showed up to collect their winnings. Luckily, the agency that conducted the prize had some fine-print that protected the newspaper’s liability. However, the embarrassment and a number of irate readers remained.
Rather than duck or move on quickly, the leaders at the Daily News made a surprising decision, they decided to run with it. They ran a front page article on Monday morning proclaiming, “News offers $1 Million to Say Sorry, Folks.” On pages 2-3, they had photographs and articles about the people that thought they had won, their disappointment, and their hopefulness that they’d get another chance…this time, a more exclusive chance. The Daily News turned a disaster into a unique opportunity to gain attention while owning up to the error. It cost them additional prize money, but it yielded dividends in subscriber stickiness and media attention.
Beyond the whole silver-lining mishigas, leaders need to be willing to play with a challenge - especially when it is a conflict. Think around the lines, be fun while being authentic. And consider the marketing value when you try to solve a situation that runs awry.
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