It always pays to have a PR pro on hand to help navigate random events that may hurt your business.
Lime Scooters, which has enjoyed phenomenal popularity since launching, is now being attacked over safety concerns. Recent, highly publicised problems with lock-ups, resulting in injuries to riders, prompted Auckland Council to suspend use of the scooters.
It’s now got to the point where the prevailing “wisdom” is that Lime scooters are at fault for every and all injuries, even if they clearly aren’t.
That’s quite different to how things were playing out for Lime when it launched. For the first three months, media coverage was dominated by humorous, fun stories of people doing random things, such as riding on the scooters with a La-Z-Boy or a wheelchair. Of course, there were also reports of those people falling off, hurting themselves or others.
It was all good publicity for Lime then. But not so now. There’s still the random behaviour from people doing silly things on their scooters and coming to grief. But now riders and media are blaming Lime for causing the accidents.
The surge in complaints coincides with a few high-profile incidents where wheel-locking caused injury. People, and media, are now connecting every Lime incident with the software issues.
Lime says it’s fixed the software glitch, and Auckland Council has now dropped its suspension. We’re not so sure that will be the end of the complaints or reputational risks for Lime.
People will still fall off their scooters. Media will keep looking for patterns where Lime can be blamed. Councils will be pressed to regulate further.
Lime needs to avoid being implicated in every instance of riders falling off its scooters. Its long-term future depends on it. It could start by being more forceful in calling out the fault of riders when it knows its scooters haven’t malfunctioned.
That’s why organisations should have a PR pro in the room, especially when they launch a new product or service. They can flag the more obvious reputational risks and anticipate seemingly random events that might hurt business.