ImageMike Daisey (Picture from nytimes.com)

Foxconn, a prominent manufacturing company in China, whose clients include Apple, Dell, Amazon and many others, suffered a storm sparked by Mike Daisey’s fabricated monologue. Mike Daisey exaggerated the bad working conditions in Foxconn’s factory in his show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, and a following public radio program “This American Life”.

After being questioned, Mike Daisey claimed his falsehood was to sacrifice some tiny truth for artistic effect, or maybe he just wanted to make up a stunt. Whatever the case, Foxconn did have a crisis, along with its clients.

Then how did Foxconn react? Nothing.

Mike Daisey’s monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” has been rolling since October 2011. It stirred the U.S., yet Foxconn in China seemed ignorant and didn’t defend itself until journalists questioned the authenticity of Mike Daisey’s words. Even after Mike Daisey admitted his falsehoods and offered an apology, Foxconn denied that it would take legal actions against these falsified shows. All Foxconn had done was standing in the corner like an outsider. Foxconn’s reluctant reaction made all the falsehoods look so true.

As a comparison, Apple turned its crisis into an opportunity. Right after the criticisms of its supply chain vendor, Apple asked the Fair Labor Association, an independent auditor, to review the manufacturing plants it used. What’s more, Apple’s new CEO, Timothy D. Cook, visited Foxconn Technology’s manufacturing plant for the iPhone to show his concern about employees. A following NYTimes article compared Apple’s quick reaction and its rivals to reinforce Apple’s image as a responsible enterprise, which turned the corner perfectly.

Foxconn should learn a lesson from this threatening but not dangerous storm. First, it should enhance its media monitoring system to keep updated with what people are talking about Foxconn. Second, it should prepare some standby statements, and react quickly and sincerely if facing a risk of crisis. Third, it should use law tools to protect itself from defamation. Fourth and the most important, good performance comes before communication. Maybe it’s time Foxconn put more energy on improving its working condition and employee welfare in China.

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