Crisis management: Where’s my Wonga?

Payday loans - now there’s a string of words we’re all sick of hearing. I think the term is well up there with some of the most negative and criticised phrases of 2013. So why am I writing about something so controversial? 

By Ashleigh McLeod

Infamous, short-term loan company Wonga has just announced that it will release a short film at the tail end of this year, featuring the real life stories of some of its customers. In the words of Wonga, the documentary will give a, ‘modern, authentic and relevant portrait’ of British life today.

The move comes as a result of the notorious negative media attention the company has received and its tarnished industry reputation following Government warnings on tougher regulation to protect consumers. According to Metro online, the film will be produced by BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Gary Tarn who will have free reign on the production’s creative side and has already been warned not to make it promotional.

This is probably one of the most difficult cases of crisis management in the current landscape and Wonga has given a filmmaker full control of its outcome. However, I’m sure that the clever people at Wonga realise that this isn’t going to be the easiest bridge to cross. I assume that their goal is to neutralise the situation rather than give the industry a positive face.

“Wonga has rarely been out of the headlines this year,” added Wonga’s chief operating officer Niall Wass. “We have a few loud critics and, while scrutiny of the mistakes we make is absolutely appropriate, the voice of the people who actually use and value our services ­ the silent majority ­ is usually missing from the picture.”

While I’m not a big fan of this type of company, I believe that Wonga has taken a smart and creative approach to the situation. Crisis management is an issue that faces many companies, perhaps not on a Wonga-level but even so, it’s important to know how to address the situation correctly.

What do you think - innovative approach or just another form of advertisement? If you want to talk crisis management, why not give us a call? We love a challenge.

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Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.


ayerbe59 said...

There are several business sectors that suffer from inherent public mistrust, like the nuclear industry, weapons, investment banking and so on. In my opinion the general public is these days a lot savvier at discerning between self promotion and a real desire to engage positively and constructively on serious matters. For Wonga, and similar companies, sometime it may just be better to keep a low profile. Inevitably, however professional this film will be, it will put this company even more in the spot, probably hardening even further the opposition. The question is whether any form of PR can really and truly turn something that is inherently unethical, like usury, into something positive or is trying to defend the indefensible worth it?
Thanks for the insightful and incisive blogs, a pleasure to read them.

Ashleigh McLeod said...

I completely agree with you in saying that time will be the best healer for Wonga. However, I do feel that they shouldn't lie low and not do anything as they will forever be the result of constant media bashing. I think that the company does have some (maybe very few) positive stories that are not being communicated with the public at the moment. As you said, it's a very hard case for this company as they are just so unethical that negative attention will just come naturally. I think they should find a way to communicate the positive stories they do have instead of wasting them. I'm not too sure about the film idea though! Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you enjoy our posts. :-)