A. Ballpoint pens and damage control.

Jake McKee dissects an interview between PRNews and the general manager of Kryptonite, the ur-manufacturer of those U-shaped bike locks you now see everywhere.

Back in September, a user at a bike discussion forum posted the discovery that the thief-proof Kryptonite lock could be popped open with… a ballpoint pen. Engadget posted a video showing just how easy it was, and suddenly the blogiverse was alive with a story that soon hit the mainstream media — and put Kryptonite in an awkward PR position.

Their response? They immediately expressed their appreciation for having heard their users’ concerns, reaffirmed their commitment to the best bike protection solutions on the market, and promised to respond in more detail as soon as they’d had the time to examine the situation.

Oh, wait… that was Bizarro-universe Kryptonite. The actual company, in Jake’s words, didn’t quite do that:

Kryptonite got into trouble for simply repeatedly ignoring the issue.

In fact, here’s how the company’s general manager characterized their response:

For us, the overriding principle is to look after our customers, so we tried to protect brand integrity and limit the damage to the company, which are by-products of trying to do the right thing.

Sure. Because when I’m locking up a $3,000 bike, I don’t really care if the lock mechanism is made of wet Kleenex and can be picked by a chimpanzee wielding a handful of gravel… just so long as it has brand integrity.

Jake’s article makes a series of great points in response to all of this, but two jump out at me.

  1. For clueless companies whose number one concern is litigation rather than creating real relationships with the consumers and improving their products, blogs are probably a death blow. Good.
  2. ….[I]f you had a better relationship with the world outside of the company walls, you wouldn’t have to “be ready”. You’d already be having the discussion.