RBC didn't plan for outsourcing backlash: PR expert
Published Friday, April 12, 2013 8:06AM EDT
RBC broke the first rule of public relations, failing to plan for the possibility that employees whose jobs were being outsourced would be upset and take their complaints public, says one PR expert.
In February, 45 of the bank's personnel were informed that they would be replaced by outsourced workers after the bank contracted a number of technological services to iGate, a California-based firm that specializes in sending jobs offshore.
According to an RBC employee, personnel were given 90 days' notice. At least one of the Canadian employees complained that she was asked to train her own foreign replacement.
Geoff Rowan, managing director of Ketchum Public Relations Canada, said RBC didn't think through the possible implications of their actions.
"It looks like they didn't really plan for this the way a big sophisticated company should," Rowan told CTV's Canada AM.
"PR 101 says if you're going to do some sort of job action, you anticipate what are the possible scenarios. It could be that someone is going to be very unhappy about it and is going to go to the media, and in this world of social media that's going to have enormous repercussions."
Gord Nixon, president and CEO of the bank, released an open letter on Thursday apologizing for the way employees were treated. In the letter, he said the situation and resulting public outcry "has raised important questions."
"First, I want to apologize to the employees affected by this outsourcing arrangement as we should have been more sensitive and helpful to them. All will be offered comparable job opportunities within the bank," he wrote.
"Second, we are reviewing our supplier arrangements and policies with a continued focus on Canadian jobs and prosperity, balancing our desire to be both a successful business and a leading corporate citizen."
Carefully worded letter
While Nixon apologized in the letter for the way people were affected by the decision, he was careful not to admit to any wrongdoing whatsoever, Rowan said.
In fact, Nixon points out that RBC did not break any rules or regulations in their handling of the situation.
"This is a typical lawyer letter that he's written with the lawyers standing over top of the PR people saying 'you can't really admit any wrongdoing.' It's carefully parsed," Rowan said.
"Wouldn't you just love it if a corporation screwed up and they just said 'hey, we screwed up, we're sorry, we feel really bad about it. We've damaged some people, we've hurt some people and we're going to fix it.'"
However, Rowan credited Nixon for admitting the company handled the situation poorly, and said it's likely RBC learned a valuable experience from the negative coverage of the story.
RBC faced considerable backlash over the story, with outraged members of the public taking to social media and urging a boycott of the bank.
Since the story broke over the weekend, the bank has been "scrambling" to redeploy workers into other positions within the bank, according to the RBC employee who spoke to CTV News on condition of anonymity.