Kodak Transparency: Exposing Bad News in a Positive Light on Social Media

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Eastman Kodak Company’s filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it reorganizes its business raises “the specter that the 132-year-old trailblazer could become the most storied casualty of a digital age that has whipped up a maelstrom of economic, social and technological change,” as the Associated Press (via Time.com) puts it.

“Kodak played a role in pretty much everyone’s life in the 20th century because it was the company we entrusted our most treasured possession to – our memories,” said Robert Burley, a photography professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University, to the AP.

And now those memories have been co-opted by the likes of Facebook’s Timeline (which just added 60 new apps) and other online memory-keepers in an age where the business of photography has moved to digital. 

Although Kodak’s press release says, “The Company has made pioneering investments in digital and materials deposition technologies in recent years, generating approximately 75% of its revenue from digital businesses in 2011,” it was not enough to keep the venerable brand solvent.[more]

“Kodak is taking a significant step toward enabling our enterprise to complete its transformation,” said Antonio Perez, Chairman and CEO. “Now we must complete the transformation by further addressing our cost structure and effectively monetizing non-core IP assets.”

A snapshot of Kodak’s handling of the news on social media includes this message on its US Facebook page:

“As you’re some of the best customers, we wanted to let you know that today we began a new phase of our transformation, one that will result in a better, stronger Kodak… Kodak is open, operating in a normal course and our goal is to continue with our transformation to build the strongest possible foundation for the Kodak of the future…Please click the link for the details: http://www.kodaktransforms.com/

A message to the brand loyalists who follow its UK Facebook page, where the brand is keeping on carrying on:

“As you have heard, Kodak and our U.S. subsidiaries have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization, but our European business is not affected by this and will operate as usual. We will continue to serve and meet the needs of all our customers and suppliers in Europe.”

Kodak’s chief blogger, who tweets as @kodakCB, has been thanking followers and pointing folks to the kodaktransforms.com chapter 11 website:

“Kodak and its U.S. subsidiaries intend to continue normal business operations during the reorganization, and throughout the process:

Continue customer programs; 

Provide employees with their usual wages and benefits; and 

Honor all post-petition obligations to suppliers in the ordinary course.” 

A video message from Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio M. Perez, at top, posted on the kodaktransforms bankruptcy website (but not, oddly, on the brand’s YouTube channel) includes a promise to “emerge a lean, world-class, digital imaging and materials science company.”

All-in-all, a quick and nimble social media response; ironically, better than the basics of Kodak’s recent business dealings.

“To be able to hop from stone to stone across the stream takes great agility and foresight and passion for excellence, and Kodak is capable of that. They have some killer stuff in inkjet printing. It’s becoming a profitable product line but what they need is the runway to allow it to take off,” commented Mark Zupan, dean of the University of Rochester’s business school.  “As the saying goes, ‘the best way to anticipate the future is to invent it.’”

Is that reinvention starting today? Its lawyers told a federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan today that 75% of its revenues are digital today, and that its patents are worth up to $2.6 billion, so there’s hope it can indeed transform itself.

Let us know what you think of Kodak’s social media response to its bankruptcy news in the comments below.

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