This week, while Toronto recovered from rain, floods, abandoned Ferraris, and snakes on trains, Lac-Megantic, Quebec, was facing a far more serious challenge: making sense of the loss of up to 50 lives after a runaway oil tanker derailed and exploded in the town on July 6. The devastating accident has led to much discussion of pipelines and energy use, with HuffPost bloggers offering opinons on all sides of the debate about the safest way forward. What's probably easier to agree on is that The Rail World Inc., the company involved with the derailment, could use a lesson or two in public relations. It took company president Ed Burkhardt four days to get himself to Lac-Megantic, and he spent those days casting blame on the town's fire department and making bad jokes about having to wear a bullet proof vest whenever he did visit. It doesn't matter what industry you're talking about, when people are hurt or killed, a company's priority should be to take a respectful tone while providing a frank and honest assessment of its own role in the incident. That's not only the right and decent thing to do, it also happens to be a good business decision, earning the trust of present and potential shareholders and consumers. It's a lesson Ed Burkhardt may be learning the hard way.
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