(Expansion) – A communication crisis can be prevented or, where appropriate, managed, as long as there is continuous preparation and availability to act. This is true… as long as it is not politicized! In this case, prevention systems are not always sufficient to alert and, where appropriate, deal with a communication crisis.
At the beginning of the year 2000, the now defunct Renave (National Vehicle Registry) came into operation; Despite the communication strategy outlined to prevent a crisis and the preventive signs that emerged in the previous months, on August 24 of that year a journalistic investigation revealed that Ricardo Cavallo, the director of the now-defunct Renave, had been a torturer in the regime. dictatorial dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and was wanted to be tried for genocide.
The company emerged in the midst of a media environment that, since 1999, included issues such as: questioning the legalization of “chocolate” cars, growth in vehicle theft, and a political environment that resulted in the first presidential elections won by an opposition party. .
The media warned about the increase in illegal cars, which generated conflicting opinions, for example: while the governor of Baja California wanted to avoid their regularization, the governor of Tamaulipas declared himself in favor of legalizing them if they were “acquired in good faith”; the Mexican Association of Automotive Distributors (AMDA) believed that regularizing them would leave Mexico as a country without laws, and Coparmex saw it as an option to consider. Car theft also occupied space in the media.
With this scenario, in March 1999 the then Undersecretary for Industry Promotion of the Secretariat of Commerce and Industrial Development (Secofi), announced the start of Renave operations for January 10, 2000.
With the registry already in operation, on February 15 the media took up the issue of illegal cars, while detractors, from individuals and civil organizations, to public officials, legislators, governors and newscasters and commentators cast doubts on the effectiveness of the Renave.
Then it was recommended to increase the media presence of its directors, especially Cavallo. Despite the efforts to explain in detail what it was, how it operated, how much it cost and what benefits the system would bring, rejection of it increased.
For the first week of June, more than 300 members of the Monterrey Chamber of Commerce took refuge in not paying the Renave; the same was done by the Chamber of the Transformation Industry in Torreón, Coahuila, and the Commission of Young Entrepreneurs of Coparmex. There was talk of excesses in the collection, unconstitutionality of the system, confusion in prices and questioning of all kinds. For the month of July a campaign against it begins through the internet.
For everything there were answers and clarifications from Renave through the media, but the crisis prevention system was beginning to be exceeded; For example, a press conference called by the company in Hermosillo, with the presence of the Secretary of the State Government, was canceled hours before by the government itself without prior notice to the company. At the time, Cavallo confided in his Public Relations executive that duplicate vehicle registrations leaving the factory were beginning to be detected, and that he had been threatened because the system would impact a multi-million dollar business (the export of stolen cars).
The threat became a reality when on August 24 it was published in the Reforma newspaper that Cavallo had been part of the dictatorial regime in Argentina and was responsible for genocide. He was detained and arrested in the Reclusorio Oriente in Mexico City.
Many times a communication crisis is considered to be over when damage control begins to be executed. The problem, in this case, was that, while that control was being operated, new elements emerged that implicated Cavallo and questioned Renave’s management, among them: hiring undocumented migrants, an improvised auditor and even a son out of wedlock with a employee of the company itself.
Many believe that a communication crisis ends when damage control has been done. Fake! Two weeks after Cavallo’s arrest, the media reported the suicide of Secofi’s Undersecretary, under strange circumstances. The following week, on September 15, the registration of the cars in Renave was revoked and the concessionaire was intervened by the government.
In short: this brief synthesis of a story from 22 years ago and that had many variables, teaches us that prevention systems are not always sufficient to alert and, where appropriate, deal with a communication crisis, and that, when starting a new project , it is advisable to develop possible scenarios that could be faced, while considering among them the worst that could happen.
Editor’s note: Mario Maraboto Moreno has a degree in Journalism from UNAM. Research Associate at the University of North Carolina. Author of the book “Journalism and Business. How to link companies with journalists”. Consultant in Communication, Public Relations and special situations/crisis since 1991. Write to his email [email protected] and follow him on . The opinions published in this column belong exclusively to the author.