In recent years, Uber has been struck by a series of scandals and negative publicity, including improper handling of user data, technology theft, and sexual harassment accusations. However, even for a company that’s infamously scandalous, 2017 is proving to be one of the worst years for this $69 billion ride-hailing giant.
At the beginning of the year, Uber lost more than 200,000 clients in one weekend after the #DeleteUber movement sparked on social media as a result of Uber ties with President Donald Trump. Since then, the firm has been hit by a stream of never-ending scandals and bad press.
More scandals, blunders, and PR disasters
In February, Uber was caught up in a lawsuit with Waymo, a self-driving company owned by Google’s parent corporation, Alphabet. In the suit, Uber was accused of stealing intellectual property to advance its self-driving car technology. Uber’s CEO was caught on camera in March berating one of the drivers who complained about the difficulty of making a living with the company’s reduced rates. The video went viral on social media and generated more negative publicity for the firm.
Uber has since plunged deeper into negative PR with claims of underpaying drivers, spying on a rival company, and more sexual harassment claims. The peak of it all was the resignation of Kalanick as the CEO of the company in June 2017. By using smart PR strategies, the company could have painted itself in positive light and convinced the public that they able to deal with these challenges.
Negative publicity cost the company
In 2016, Uber reported net revenue of $6.5 billion and net losses amounting to $2.8 billion. Although the company is experiencing tremendous revenue growth, it continues to hemorrhage cash at a warning rate. If the trend continues, Uber could be forced to reduce the drivers’ overall pay. Such a move could frustrate drivers who are required to search for cheap auto insurance as the company only offers supplementary coverage.
Uber’s unending scandals and bad PR have a significant role to play in its increasing losses. Other than the scandal that cost the company customers at the beginning of the year, subsequent blunders and accusations have ruined the reputation that this valued start-up cultivated from its inception. If Uber could contain the spread of the news about these scandals, it might have rode out this stretch of bad news and regained its reputation.
Smart PR could have helped
While it seems like Uber has heaped scandals on top of scandals, most of the stories reported by the media may have been ready for release for a long time. A high-profile company like Uber should see these scandalous stories coming and be prepared to bury them all at once. The firm should be aware that it’s at war and as such, get the right kind of footing to deal with the onslaught. The company should have come up with positive talks to counter the negative publicity—be they on philanthropy, innovation, or even on unique executive profiles. Positive talk is the best way to fight a PR war.
Social media has proved to be reckoning force if the #DeleteUber movement is anything to go by. However, it can also be leveraged to save a company in such moments of turmoil. Merely apologizing or denying accusations couldn’t cut it for the company at the time. However, building strong relationships with the leading influencers in social media would have saved Uber the effects of bad PR. Influencers can provide the much-needed social media back-up and steer public sentiment into an authentically positive light.
As a high-profile company, Uber is bound to have its share of scandals and negative public relations. However, moving forward, it should have better strategies in place to counter bad PR and shake off critics’ sentiments. Through such moves, the company will remain steady regardless of the scandals and waves of negative press hit it in the future.