The Office ‘Product Recall’ Episode — A PR Analysis

For those involved in the field of public relations, even if you enjoy watching The Office, this episode is bound to make you cringe.

“Product Recall” is the 20th episode in the third season of The Office. If you have not seen this episode, here’s a short summary: In the start of the episode, the employees of Dunder-Mifflin are in a panic, answering a flood of incoming calls from upset clients. A disgruntled employee at their paper mill had placed an inappropriate watermark on countless reams of paper. That paper had then failed to go through final checks, and was sent out to clients such as Dunmore High School who used that paper to print their prom invitations on. Dunder-Mifflin is left with no choice but to announce a product recall and try to repair client relationships.

Dunder-Mifflin’s biggest mistake in this whole situation was making the decision to proceed without the help of a crisis management team. While we have seen in real-life situations that even the best PR practitioners can not protect a company completely, it is crucial that you have steps in place beforehand for an outcome with minimal mistakes. Dunder-Mifflin, however, left this job to Michael Scott. In the matter of one day, Michael Scott was guilty of the four major do-nots of a PR crisis.

Michael Scott Panicked

When Michael meets the rest of the employees in the conference room, while he seems very anxious, he has formulated a plan. It is not until he decides to host a press conference with an important client for a public apology that he loses his poise.

Michael has a plan to publicly apologize to an important client in the hopes of receiving positive press regarding the situation. Unfortunately, the disgruntled client does not accept the apology and Michael begins to panic. Once the client suggests that Michael should resign, Michael chooses to insult her, causing a shouting match in front of a journalist in the room, who has transcribed the whole ordeal. This conveyed a lack of control and did nothing but damage the reputation of Dunder-Mifflin further. This shows that even an employee with a positive customer relations track record can snap and cause a scene; it’s best this is left to a PR professional.


Michael Scott Spewed Information

While this detail is not mentioned outright, it is believed that corporate headquarters sent out a press release or made an announcement that the company apologizes for the situation and is doing its best to make reparations to those involved. This is hinted when Angela is on the phone with an upset customer and said “…the official position of Dunder-Mifflin is apologetic” and informs the customer that they have received a refund. If this is true, the situation could have been considered handled. Michael Scott, being the go-getter that he is, decided to handle the entire situation himself, spewing more information about the incident than needed.


Michael Scott Took On Too Many Roles

Michael Scott is the manager of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. While he should have just allowed corporate to handle this incident, he took it upon himself to handle it. If he truly felt that this was the right thing to do, he should have delegated more properly. While he did instruct Jim and Andy to visit Dunmore High School, and move the accounting department to customer relations, he handled everything else on his own — a recipe for disaster. In a situation like this, it is important to know your role and allow professionals to handle the rest. If you are acting as a professional in a certain situation, stick to your strengths and do not assume other roles.


Michael Scott Was Unprepared

It’s true, Dunder-Mifflin headquarters acted quickly and efficiently, Michael Scott did not. It is apparent through his lack of organization and blatant disregard for crisis management. There should have been an established team member role sheet beforehand to ensure a smooth transition to crisis mode. Guidelines should have been set on how to communicate to internal and external stakeholders as well as the media. If these steps were made, Dunder-Mifflin could have handled this situation in a much more professional manner.


What We Learned

In short, don’t allow Michael Scott to lead your crisis management team. Aside from that, we learned that when a company is in crisis mode, it is important to both be prepared, and allow the professionals to handle it. Not everyone can keep calm under pressure to ensure effective communication. If you haven’t learned this through Michael Scott, also take note of how Andy spoke to the principal of Dunmore High School and Angela to nearly every customer on the phone. We don’t see how Dunder-Mifflin was affected by this situation, but it most likely was not good.

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