Polpeo https://polpeo.com Social Media Simulations Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:00:15 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 61783176 BA’s uncontrolled descent into crisis https://polpeo.com/ba-descent-crisis/ https://polpeo.com/ba-descent-crisis/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 12:47:17 +0000 https://polpeo.com/?p=4503 Most crises are avoidable. Around ten years ago, my boss and I used to carry home back-up tapes of our server data. That way, if the office burnt down over night we’d still have two copies of the back-up. While...

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Most crises are avoidable.

Around ten years ago, my boss and I used to carry home back-up tapes of our server data. That way, if the office burnt down over night we’d still have two copies of the back-up. While fortunately systems for backing up data have moved on, the basic premise still stands.

You can’t always prevent something from catching fire. You can control your level of preparation and your response.

British Airways and the half-term meltdown

Saturday 27th

Bank holiday weekend, just as thousands of families were heading to the airport for the half-term break, British Airways’ computer system crashed.

People shouldn’t still be talking about this, but they are because it wasn’t just a quick glitch while BA’s systems kicked-over to back-up servers.

It affected more than 1000 flights over the bank holiday weekend.

It ruined holidays and weddings. People separated from their luggage found that they couldn’t access vital medication.

Enter the CEO

That same day, BA released its first video of the CEO addressing the ongoing crisis. He apologised, and mentioned that they thought the computer system crashing was caused by a power issue.

Comments were disabled on YouTube, but BA also posted it to Facebook, where angry passengers responded with criticisms, questions and complaints.

Many addressed towards the CEO and the video.

It also posted the video to Twitter, with similar results.

Sunday 28th May

Aviation analysts were commenting on the issues, with one predicting that the consequences of the crash would be felt for up to two weeks – as planes, crew and luggage needed to be routed to the right place.

Another aviation expert – Julian Bray – highlighted the role of the CEO. He told the Mail Online that Alex Cruz (who has been CEO for just over a year) has a reputation as an “outsourcer and cost-cutter” and that he was “not particularly suited to an upmarket, people-intensive, luxury-price brand.”

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported that hotels near Heathrow were charging stranded customers between £1000 and £2500 per night for a room.

It also highlighted BA’s “unreliable new IT system” that had suffered a worldwide crash for the sixth time this year.

CEO video #2

A second video came the next day.

Although there was another apology, and it included the CEO reciting some of the issues BA customers were facing, many people remained angry.

Again, comments were banned on YouTube, but BA posted the video to Facebook and Twitter.

Monday 29th

A whistleblower spoke to thesun.co.uk – saying that there were known issues with the computer system, and that management refused to fix the problems.

 “We started using the new system in October. Training aside, the whole thing has been a disaster.

“The Chief Executive Alex Cruz, when he was warned about the system told us that it was the staff’s fault not the system.

“We are making more money than ever and all this has happened because they are being tight.

A second article was published with the headline:

DAMAGE LIMITATION British Airways boss ‘tries to gag staff’ over IT failure which hit 300,000 passengers after ‘inexperienced staff outsourced to India didn’t know to launch back up system’

It linked to an internal email sent by the CEO, published by the Mail Online.

“Guys, either you are part of the team working to fix this or you aren’t. We are not in the mode of ‘debriefing on what happened’ but rather ‘let’s fix this mode’.”

“In the meantime, if you do not want to get involved or cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary, unless it is a message of support to the thousands of colleagues that love BA as much as you do.”

Over on The Guardian’s site, the GMB union were accusing the executive team of hiding while its members had to deal with thousands of angry passengers. It also refuted claims made by the CEO that the crisis had nothing to do with outsourcing or cost-cutting.

However, the CEOs statement saying that the issues were from the local data centre and were “managed and fixed by local resources” was met with the union pointing out that members of the equipment and facilities team at this location had, in fact, been made redundant.

The media also started to report that the CEO was refusing to resign.

CEO video #3

The third CEO video was more of an in-house interview and went over the same messages as the previous videos.

The social media response was mixed.

31st May

BA’s statement on the cause

The Guardian reported that the IT shutdown was caused by an “uncontrolled return of power” following a power failure that damaged servers at its data centre.

BA’s statement said:

“There was a loss of power to the UK data centre which was compounded by the uncontrolled return of power which caused a power surge taking out our IT systems. So we know what happened, we just need to find out why,” the airline said in a statement.

“It was not an IT failure and had nothing to do with outsourcing of IT, it was an electrical power supply which was interrupted.

“We are undertaking an exhaustive investigation to find out the exact circumstances and most importantly ensure that this can never happen again.”

The expert’s view on the cause

The media turned to the experts. Scottish and Southern Electricity, (which runs the local grid) and the National Grid said that there had been no issues or power surges in the area on Saturday morning.

Data centre experts pointed to a possible design flaw, as all data centres should have good surge protection built-in. There should also be procedures for incidents like power outages, and a quick way to start the back-up systems.

As of 2nd June, the Times reports that the crash was caused by an IT worker accidently turning off the power supply.

 

More than 75,000 passengers were affected by the system crash due to cancelled flights.

BA’s parent company, IAG, saw shares fall by 4% on Tuesday as markets opened after the Bank Holiday Weekend.

Whether or not this was caused by a power surge, a power outage, or human error, there will be questions asked of BA as to why it didn’t have a backup plan in place, whether there were lessons missed from previous failures, and whether human error could have been prevented. Meanwhile the cost to the airline in fixing the problem and paying passengers compensation is mounting.

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The five mistakes that shaped United’s crisis https://polpeo.com/five-mistakes-shaped-uniteds-crisis/ https://polpeo.com/five-mistakes-shaped-uniteds-crisis/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:09:15 +0000 https://polpeo.com/?p=4466 At 7:30pm on Sunday 9th April passengers aboard United Airlines flight 3411 started tweeting about an incident as they waited for take-off. Some tweeted the airline, others local news channels. Several took pictures and video of the chaos on board...

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At 7:30pm on Sunday 9th April passengers aboard United Airlines flight 3411 started tweeting about an incident as they waited for take-off. Some tweeted the airline, others local news channels. Several took pictures and video of the chaos on board as one passenger (69 year-old Dr. David Dao) was dragged through the plane like a sack of spuds, only to run back on the plane bleeding from the head before being removed again.

The passengers who were asked to leave the flight – or, in one case forcibly removed from it – had paid for their tickets and passed security. But United had a policy – employees of the airline took priority – even if it meant ‘bumping’ paying customers from the flight they were already seated on (let’s call this mistake no.1).

So, the employees took their seats and the plane eventually took off.

Mistake no.2

Hours later, the news was making waves on social media, and United issued its first statement. A rather dry statement when compared to the intense emotion of the passenger with a head wound screaming as he was being dragged down the aisle.

“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”

Mistake no.3

Monday morning: United’s social media team sprang into action – by replying to questions people were asking them on twitter with sentences copied from the statement.

This not only looks lazy – it looks like the airline doesn’t care about what people are saying, they just want them to stop saying it.

People, of course, don’t shut up – they get louder, bombarding the brand with questions and criticisms. Sharing the video and the news as widely as possible. Setting up fake Twitter accounts…

Mistake no.4

Monday afternoon: the United twitter account posts a statement from the CEO which talks about how upsetting the event was to all at United and apologises for needing to “re-accommodate” customers.

After reading the first two sentences, the next two could say almost anything – I’ve stopped paying attention because I’m already offended. An apology for needing to (literally it would seem) bump customers from a flight highlights the lack of understanding about the real issue here.

United’s first statement points out that the passenger wasn’t dragged off the plane by United staff, but airport security. So, United is apologising for its role – bumping customers from the flight. No one in charge seems to understand that for the millions of people sharing the story, it’s the brand that dragged the man through the plane.

Mistake no.5

Monday evening: Twitter picks up on an email sent to United staff from its CEO. In which he expresses confusion over the passenger’s defiance.

It’s not clear whether anyone considered the possibility that internal emails leak and that many people would find the contents of the email distasteful.

The shockwaves

By Tuesday, the outrage the video caused on social media had spread around the world. The story got posted to Weibo – China’s largest social network – and had 46 million views and 34,000 comments.

Tuesday morning saw $1bn wiped off the share price.

The course correction

Sometimes it can be difficult for businesses to understand outrage, but share prices are a different matter. Tuesday afternoon saw United’s CEO issue another statement – this one was crafted by someone who understood why people were outraged and who appeared determined to ensure no passenger ever experienced the same treatment on a United flight again.

That Friday, United amended its policy on employees bumping passengers off flights. Employees would need to show up an hour before take-off to guarantee themselves seats on the plane and not take the seat of anyone who had already boarded. United said that this was just a first step in the review of its policies.

Logic versus empathy

Logic and empathy aren’t mutually exclusive.

United could have easily ensured that its first statement had the power and language of the one it issued on Tuesday. Instead, it appeared to over-analyse the situation. “Well, our guys were right to kick those people off the plane, it’s in our rule book,” is what it appeared to say, meanwhile the rest of the world screamed at the way the passenger was treated.

It may not have been United staff dragging the doctor out, but it was the airline’s policy that instigated the confrontation. It was the failure of its employees to say – or be able to say – “hey, maybe we should let the doctor keep his seat”. It was the assumption that passenger’s lives and responsibilities are less important than getting United employees across the country on time.

This isn’t the first time that United’s been in trouble for ignoring the impact it has on passengers’ lives. It’s probably time it used that influence to do something to delight its customers, rather than upset them.

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Book your place at Digital Download https://polpeo.com/book-place-digital-download/ https://polpeo.com/book-place-digital-download/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 11:54:31 +0000 https://polpeo.com/?p=4452 If you’ve ever wondered what a live social media crisis simulation would be like, now’s your chance to find out! The Polpeo team will be at this month’s Digital Download in Islington, running a live crisis simulation focusing on the...

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If you’ve ever wondered what a live social media crisis simulation would be like, now’s your chance to find out! The Polpeo team will be at this month’s Digital Download in Islington, running a live crisis simulation focusing on the challenge of building and maintaining trust in the era of fake news.

Digital Download (run by Paul Sutton) will feature workshops and discussions on key digital trends and developments. There’ll also be a live interview with Gini Dietrich, founder of Spin Sucks.

The event is taking place between 10am – 4pm on Thursday 27th April at the London Art House. You can book your ticket here: http://paulsutton.co/digital-download-london/.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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Brands are more than their CEOs https://polpeo.com/brands-are-more-than-their-ceos/ https://polpeo.com/brands-are-more-than-their-ceos/#respond Tue, 28 Feb 2017 13:40:39 +0000 https://polpeo.com/?p=4424 On a business level, when it comes to reputation with clients, governments, media and the industry that they are in, CEOs (and their actions) carry a lot of weight. But what about their wider reputational impact? For example, I’m currently...

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On a business level, when it comes to reputation with clients, governments, media and the industry that they are in, CEOs (and their actions) carry a lot of weight. But what about their wider reputational impact?

For example, I’m currently staring at a Samsung monitor. Later, I shall stare at a Samsung TV and tweet, in furious outrage (I’m pretty sure something will outrage me today), on a Samsung smartphone.

In January, South Korea’s special prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee. Prosecutors are accusing him of paying $36.42 million in bribes to organisations linked to a friend of impeached President Park Geun-hye. Both Samsung Group and Lee are refuting the charges.

Yet I’ll still choose a Samsung the next time I upgrade my phone.

Reputation is multi-layered

If the CEO of a business is judged to be doing a bad job, the share price may drop, investors may speak out and it might be discussed in the industry. But, while they are very high profile, the CEO is still just one person and their reputation doesn’t often factor into purchasing decisions. I want an affordable laptop that runs well, I don’t necessarily know (or care) about accusations of an allegedly shady CEO.

Boycotts are sustained on outrage. If a business, or an executive, is accused of doing something wrong and it doesn’t cause a significant emotional reaction in you, you probably won’t rush to boycott it.

In 2016, ad agency Campbell Ewald fired its CEO after a high-level employee sent an email to staff suggesting a Ghetto Day themed party. The CEO had failed to act on the contents of the email until the email was leaked to the media and the agency lost a huge client.

2017 has seen Uber being trounced in the court of public opinion as it launches itself into one #fail after the other. Its CEO hasn’t gone anywhere, but two of its most loyal investors have written an open letter urging the brand to change its culture after a former employee posted her own account of harassment at the firm.

These are two issues that people can get passionate about. They go against many people’s moral codes. They get us angry.

White collar crime doesn’t often provoke the same emotional response.

Is it relatable? When a crisis is so far outside someone’s experience, it can be hard to get worked up about the issue. The CEO of Deutsche Börse is currently being investigated by German prosecutors for insider dealing (which he denies). Deutsche Börse is also in the news over a proposed merger with the London Stock Exchange.

Most people won’t have heard of the organisation. Most people don’t spend any time thinking about the stock market, never mind pondering on the behaviour of the people who run the stock market. (Unless they’re watching the Wolf of Wall Street of course.)

If the issue doesn’t hook into our own experience, we’re unlikely to spend much time and energy thinking about it.

Wells Fargo & Co CEO, John Stumpf, resigned in 2016 after significant public anger about staff opening accounts for people who didn’t sign up for them. This issue taps into our data and financial security, our need for privacy and our trust in institutions we rely on day-to-day. We care about what happens because we have skin in the game.

Headline grabbing issues resonate with many of us. Let’s be honest, our attention spans suck. A dry 3000 word essay about the inner workings of an executive board requires effort to read, understand and care about.

If, however, the story can be summed up in the headline, like “Saatchi & Saatchi boss resigns amid sexism row”, it’s quicker and easier for us to understand what’s going on, form an opinion and share the story with our network.

Crises can have a serious impact on the business in terms of share price without having a similar impact on the reputation of the brand. Because of this, brands can, and do, survive when executives get in trouble.

CEOs are the chief representatives of the business and its values, so any misconduct by a CEO has to be addressed swiftly by the business. But how many of us are familiar with the personalities and practices of the CEOs whose products litter our lives? Would you ditch a favourite brand after finding out its CEO might be up to no good?

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Brands & Politics: why it’s time to get involved https://polpeo.com/brands-politics-time-get-involved/ https://polpeo.com/brands-politics-time-get-involved/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:06:40 +0000 https://polpeo.com/?p=4392 A regular star of the crisis simulations I write for Polpeo is someone I call AnarchySteve. For years, he’s been one of my go-to guys for causing simulation participants headaches. He’s arrogant, stubborn, opinionated and unyielding. Just when you think...

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A regular star of the crisis simulations I write for Polpeo is someone I call AnarchySteve. For years, he’s been one of my go-to guys for causing simulation participants headaches.

He’s arrogant, stubborn, opinionated and unyielding. Just when you think you have a reasoned response for him, he replies with condescension and rains scorn down on your efforts. He’s a proper little antagonist.

But what can you do, how can your brand respond, when AnarchySteve isn’t just the most annoying guy on Twitter, but is one of the most powerful men in the world and the most annoying guy on Twitter?

How brands are responding

Love him (really though?) or hate him, you have to admit that President Trump is causing a significant level of chaos, anxiety, fear and anger right now. Millions of people around the world are marching in the streets in protest over his words and actions since taking the oath of office.

Many Americans are worried about their own citizenship status, and businesses are having to consider their response to the issue. Do they live their values? Do they offer practical and emotional support to employees? Should they make a statement, or is that getting involved in politics? Is getting involved in politics now the right thing to do for brands?

Amazon

Amazon has been criticised for not being critical enough of Trump’s immigration restrictions. The firm issued a statement about its commitment to equality and diversity. It also used the statement to advise employees on what to do, but it came of as more “Whelp, this is too bad, guess you better check your travel plans huh?” than “This is an outrage! Here’s how we’ll stand up for you and help you through this.

This changed on 30th January when it signed up to the Washington Attorney General’s lawsuit against the executive order (Expedia and Microsoft also signed up in support).

Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to employees saying that the company had “reached out to the White House to explain the negative effect on our coworkers and our company.” The memo also emphasised the importance of diversity and inclusion, saying that: “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do.”

Google

Then you have Google, which started off by immediately recalling employees travelling overseas. It then launched a $4m crisis campaign fund in response to the immigration controversy. The money is set to be distributed to four immigrant, refugee and civil liberties organisations. Google employees held a protest during the workday – a protest that Google executives attended.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s CEO – an immigrant himself – posted his response to the issue on the 31st January. During an employee Q&A, Satya Nadella said that the company would continue to work with, and offer legal assistance to, any employees (and their families) affected by the executive order.

Microsoft released a statement saying:

“We believe the executive order is misguided and a fundamental step backwards. There are more effective ways to protect public safety without creating so much collateral damage to the country’s reputation and values.”

Netflix

The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, called President Trump’s executive order on immigration un-American

Starbucks

Meanwhile, Starbucks responded to the issue expressing “deep concern” and a promise to hire 10,000 refugees. This prompted a response from one, Joe The Plumber, who said that Starbucks should hire 10,000 Veterans, not refugees. Whether in response to this, or not, Starbucks posted about Veteran outreach that same day.

Starbucks quote brands politics

https://twitter.com/Starbucks/status/826598626042318850

Uber & Lyft

Uber is facing a movement to boycott the firm after it continued to pick up fares at JFK during the New York Taxi Workers stoppage. The union stopped sending taxis to JFK when the immigration ban came into sudden effect and people found themselves held in custody at the airport or denied entry.

Uber, perhaps not understanding why people were angry, tweeted that there would be no surge pricing.

This drew significantly more ire from people, who felt the brand was taking a civil liberties issue as a chance to make a quick buck.

So many people have chosen to #DeleteUber that the brand has had to set up a process to automate account deletion, which wasn’t something the business had planned to do yet.

Rival firm, Lyft, also took fares at JFK, but Uber’s ill-judged tweet meant that it could do so with few problems. The firm then pledged to donate $1m to the American Civil Liberties Union. Downloads of the Lyft app have now overtaken its rival’s.

 

Other businesses, like gaming brands Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Insomniac Games have addressed the issue on public or private forums (although, as in the case with EA, internal memos will always find their way into the press).

It’s easy for people to say that brands shouldn’t get involved in politics. The President says jump, they should ask “how high”, right? Well…no.

Brands aren’t faceless entities staffed by a crew of androids and AIs. They’re run by people. Immigration – which modern America was built on – is a vital thing not just for Silicon Valley tech firms, but businesses around the country. These people bring valuable skills and experience to businesses that depend on them. Immigrants aren’t statistics in a newspaper, they’re friends, co-workers and founders of billion dollar companies that employ millions.

This time, politics is personal and brands can’t avoid getting involved. People are watching what brands say and do right now. Organisations that have long championed diversity and inclusivity will be expected to act. The question is, what can they do?

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How brands can safeguard their reputation in a post-truth era https://polpeo.com/brands-can-safeguard-reputation-post-truth-era/ https://polpeo.com/brands-can-safeguard-reputation-post-truth-era/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 07:57:20 +0000 http://polpeo.com/?p=4383 Years ago, I had a Homer Simpson #doh moment when I fell for, and re-shared, some inane Facebook post warning people of something dire and technology related. This post had been passed around my school friends like some kind of...

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Years ago, I had a Homer Simpson #doh moment when I fell for, and re-shared, some inane Facebook post warning people of something dire and technology related. This post had been passed around my school friends like some kind of doomsday chain letter.

Of course, the second I shared it, the only tech genius I knew felt the need to post a reply detailing how and why I was a premium grade prat for believing said hogwash (even though I was mainly sharing the post out of a misguided sense of social obligation, it’s just something we did back then).

These spam posts, old-wives tales and urban legends have recently found new life. They’ve been re-branded. They’ve graduated from “5 signs that your PC is being controlled by a man in Moscow” to “Oops, your government is being controlled by a man in Moscow”. This is fake news. Welcome to the post-truth era.

It’s nothing new

Let’s be honest, the term “fake news” has been made popular in the past six months, but it’s always been around. Society has always featured propaganda – you can probably find it in cave paintings.

People love to exaggerate – to create drama – especially if it benefits them in some way. Certain websites benefit from fake news. It’s notoriously clickbaity and sites can make thousands in ad revenue by hosting the content. Why wouldn’t people take advantage of this?

It has an impact

2016 demonstrated that fake news can swiftly be adopted as fact by millions of people. Denials or clarification can be painted as a cover-up and you end up in a situation where the lie becomes more authentic than the facts.

Fake news can have a social, political and economic impact.

French construction firm, Vinci, found this out the hard way. A press release was distributed in November 2016. Bloomberg published news that the firm would be restating its accounts and firing its CFO.

But it wasn’t true. The press release was fake.

Share value dropped by more than 18% on the news, rising back to a four percent drop by the end of the day (after the firm had issued its denial).

How are brands supposed to defend themselves against these sorts of attacks? Is there a way to prevent them?

Prevention and response

Brands can’t prevent people from creating and sharing fake news, but they can ensure that the brand has built up a solid foundation of goodwill and trust prior to an incident taking place by focusing on:

  • Transparency and trust. If the brand is open an honest about most things people will be more inclined to believe them when faced with fabricated news about the brand.
    Establish the facts. If and when the brand does fall victim to fake news, the comms team needs to establish the facts quickly. There should be an escalation procedure and out of hours contact numbers for senior team members.
  • Clear, non defensive, communication. People may be sharing the “news” because they believe it’s genuine, not out of malice. A statement of denial, setting the facts straight, should be all that’s needed.
  • Tone of voice needs to be calm. The fake news may be having an impact on reputation and/or share value. Customers may be second-guessing whether they should shop with the brand in future. If the social media team goes into a panic when trying to play down the speculation, it will only make things worse. Tone of voice needs to be calm and measured, even if the customer community is in a panic.
  • What’s the cause? What were the origins of the story? Was it a competitor? A disgruntled ex-employee? Maybe it was a campaign group. Unless the story originated from a website that simply churns fake news out for a living, there’s probably something that the brand can learn from the situation. Are there any issues that need to be addressed to prevent this from happening in the future?

We may be living in a post-truth era, a time when people are more likely to trust social media and search engines over traditional media and brands, but business and organisations have always had to deal with misrepresentation. It’s just easier for fake news to go viral now, and brands need to be equipped to respond rapidly and decisively.

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Eight things to consider during a crisis https://polpeo.com/eight-key-themes-focus-crisis/ https://polpeo.com/eight-key-themes-focus-crisis/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:55:27 +0000 http://polpeo.com/?p=4338 We’ve run a series of crisis simulations for the PRCA over the past two weeks (London 27 November, Edinburgh 28 November, Manchester 29 November and Bristol on 30 November). They were great fun for us to run, and attracted some...

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We’ve run a series of crisis simulations for the PRCA over the past two weeks (London 27 November, Edinburgh 28 November, Manchester 29 November and Bristol on 30 November). They were great fun for us to run, and attracted some really talented people -with a wide range of experience – senior PR professionals, students, lecturers and apprentices – who started many interesting and thought-provoking discussions.

There were some very similar themes across them all, and everyone wanted to continue the feedback discussions after we’d run out of time, so I thought it would be useful to document some of the discussions here. I won’t say too much about the storyline, as we’re running the workshop in Belfast on 25 January, other than it revolved around a rogue team member of a fictional music/tech company.

Rapid response versus careful consideration

Early discussions among all teams focused on when to respond. Most teams opted not to respond publicly to the escalating issue initially. Instead, choosing to observe who was posting, and what influence they had on social media.

Broadcasting a holding statement to Twitter, or your own social media channels too early in the crisis can amplify the issue, creating a much larger crisis for the brand.

The key lies in knowing at what point you should respond. For example, a utility company should know what ‘normal’ looks like on social channels – how many complaints or questions around billing or ethics are normal. When something changes significantly, that could constitute an escalating issue that needs a response.

It comes back to understanding what a crisis looks like for your brand. Is the action of a rogue employee going to materially impact the reputation of your business, or damage revenue, or the valuation of the company? If the answer is no, then it’s not a crisis, however much of a pain it might be to manage. If the answer is yes, then it’s a full-scale crisis.

Focus on owned or public social channels?

Monitoring your own channels is as important as monitoring public channels. You might discover an issue breaking on your own Facebook page, for example, that you can contain before it hits public channels.

Most of the teams across all the simulations (with one or two exceptions) put a much heavier emphasis on responding to people on public channels (Twitter in particular) than on their own channels (like Facebook). This interested me. In discussions, some teams felt that managing the issue on a public channel such as Twitter was more important than responding to questions on the brand’s Facebook page as it was more likely to escalate and reach a wider audience.

While this makes sense, the teams who did manage questions and comments on their owned channels fared better with the public over the full course of the crisis, as their customers felt that their voice was being heard, and so were more likely to defend the brand. Often we find that advocates are just as important as critics during a crisis, but sometimes these people are forgotten.

Develop a social media strategy

Other teams ignored social media in favour of responding to journalists.

I think this is probably a natural instinct in PR – to start the crisis by drafting a press statement (in some cases, well before the issue had attracted media interest), rather than responding to public questions on social media. While a statement is important, of course, that’s not where your crisis is likely to start.

A well thought out strategy for social media is every bit as important as your media approach. It’s easier to absorb the information in a tweet, or a Facebook post than to read a corporate statement, and during a crisis, people want information – not pure reassurance. Brief, transparent, communication can often bolster the impact of a good press statement.

Respond to (some) people on social

Whether to post personal replies or whether to broadcast statements to a wide audience also provoked discussion. Some teams felt that replying to people on Twitter would escalate the crisis as their friends would see the response, so effectively marketing it to a wider audience. Others felt that by replying directly to people, they would feel more valued.

Neither is wrong – it entirely depends on the crisis – and probably the best course of action is somewhere in the middle, responding to people with specific questions (rather than those who are simply directing abuse at the brand) and posting to all followers once the crisis has reached a level that it requires a public response.

Developing a good tone of voice

The thing I think most teams struggled with is tone of voice. It’s very easy to retreat behind corporate speak in a crisis – responding, but not really saying anything – and I don’t know what that adds, other than an acknowledgement of the issue. A statement that says: “There has been an incident and we’re looking into it” just piques interest and raises more questions. If your company values are ‘open, transparent, honest, refreshing’ (for example), a statement like this jars.

If you don’t know more than that, say “We’re hearing reports of X and while we don’t know more at the moment, we’ll let you know as soon a we do”. It sounds less as though you’re covering something up, and more appropriate for social media. If you have a crisis manual, practise adapting some of your initial holding statements to sound more open. It’ll engender trust, which will help you through the crisis.

Should you ever use diversion tactics?

This was a fascinating debate in all the simulations. Without giving too much away about the crisis scenario, there was an incident involving a company member, during an award ceremony that the company was putting on to showcase new musical talent. Should the brand shut down posts promoting the award? Or ignore the crisis completely so as not to take the focus away from the musicians that were the focus of the evening? Should it attempt to divert from the crisis?

As ever, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I’m not in favour of diversion tactics, but shutting down all other activity in this situation probably isn’t realistic – it would be pretty hard on the young musicians up for an award if the company’s crisis took away all publicity from them. The show must go on.

Those teams who scored highly here clearly articulated their strategy, acknowledging the issue, but saying they didn’t want to take focus away from the musicians, so would continue to promote the event.

Taking business action

The teams had to make some quick business decisions. Will firing an employee help the reputation of the company, or make it look weak? Could the crisis have been avoided with a stronger business strategy that could be implemented to avoid it happening again?

A crisis team must have access to strong leaders in the business who can make difficult decisions, and who can approve action quickly. Communications on its own won’t solve the crisis.

When to delete posts

Deleting posts on your owned channels was also the cause of some debate. Some teams deleted every post that was overly negative, others deleted nothing to maintain the company’s value of openness.

Again, this is a balance. You don’t want illegal activity showing on your page, for example, or posts that are outright abusive. But you shouldn’t delete critical posts just because you don’t like them, or they don’t reflect your brand values.

Not only will they pop up again as quickly as you can delete them, but it’s a tactic that’s likely to enrage some fans, who could then go on to post their critical comments on social channels that the brand doesn’t control – spreading the crisis and alienating them from the brand. Whatever you decide, make it clear on your page what your policy is.

 

If you attended the event and have feedback for us on how it went and what you learned, or whether you agree or disagree with the points raised here, we’d love to hear from you.

Featured image credit — @SouhaKhairallah

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Book your place at Managed Networks’ Security Seminar https://polpeo.com/book-place-managed-networks-security-seminar/ https://polpeo.com/book-place-managed-networks-security-seminar/#respond Mon, 12 Sep 2016 08:28:02 +0000 http://polpeo.com/?p=4304 This month, Kate will be speaking at the Security Seminar, hosted by professional IT support services provider, Managed Networks. The seminar will focus on IT security and crisis management for businesses in the venue and entertainment sector. The event (held...

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This month, Kate will be speaking at the Security Seminar, hosted by professional IT support services provider, Managed Networks. The seminar will focus on IT security and crisis management for businesses in the venue and entertainment sector.

The event (held at the 4pm 29th September at the Soho Hotel) will focus on several key crisis areas, such as:

  • Cyber-security: malware, hackers, cyber-fraud and denial of service
  • Physical and personnel security: terrorism, unauthorised entry, background checks, crowd control
  • Crisis communications: dealing with staff, with the public and with the media
  • Regulation: new rules for handling staff and customer information, new laws on surveillance

In addition to Polpeo’s own Kate Hartley, speakers include:

  • Kevin Lowrie, Assistant Director Cyber Security, DCMS
  • Ben Rapp, CEO, Managed Networks
  • Rob Hoblin, Consultant, Cognitious
  • Terri Paddock, industry commentator and founder of StageFaves

If you work in theatre, concerts, museums, galleries or other ticketed venues or visitor attractions, sign up to attend and hear the latest advice on crisis management and IT security.

We hope to see you there!

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Help send Polpeo to #SXSWInteractive 2017 https://polpeo.com/help-send-polpeo-sxswinteractive-2017/ https://polpeo.com/help-send-polpeo-sxswinteractive-2017/#respond Fri, 19 Aug 2016 09:29:45 +0000 http://polpeo.com/?p=4298 The digital world is already getting excited for what’s sure to be another great SXSW Interactive. Apart from being a great place for rising tech stars to shine, SXSW Interactive offers agencies, brands and individuals the opportunity to learn and...

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The digital world is already getting excited for what’s sure to be another great SXSW Interactive. Apart from being a great place for rising tech stars to shine, SXSW Interactive offers agencies, brands and individuals the opportunity to learn and share with others in the tech and digital communities.

Polpeo’s 2015 workshop was standing room only, and we still remember the brilliant responses from the participants (#RockStarCEO) as they struggled to save the reputation of their fantastical brand – which was in the process of being obliterated by its partying CEO, Lucian.

Now we’re rolling our sleeves up and getting ready for round two.

Will you be at SXSW Interactive in 2017? Would you like to experience managing a crisis breaking online, without the unpleasant side-effects that come with the real thing?

Then vote for our session: Managing a brand attack on social media.

We hope to see you there!

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July in crisis https://polpeo.com/july-in-crisis/ https://polpeo.com/july-in-crisis/#respond Wed, 17 Aug 2016 09:57:31 +0000 http://polpeo.com/?p=4296 Issues that used to be dealt with between the customer and the organisation are now easily shared with the wider world. As a result, organisations need to be willing to defend their internal guidelines, or flexible enough to listen to...

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Issues that used to be dealt with between the customer and the organisation are now easily shared with the wider world. As a result, organisations need to be willing to defend their internal guidelines, or flexible enough to listen to feedback and change. A few brands and organisations struggled with this in July.

Going public

When a Wembley Free School threatened a mum’s son with lunchtime isolation should she fail to pay her lunch money deficit, the issue ended up gaining a wider audience than the school anticipated. In addition to gaining national media coverage, the story made waves on Twitter as outraged people started pouring over the letter and screenshots of other, somewhat strict, school policies.

Although children’s groups responded by saying it was wrong to punish children for their parents’ inability to pay for lunch, the leadership of the school didn’t seem to understand the fuss.

A restaurant on the Cambridge Leisure Park had a similar reaction when one of its policies made it into The Telegraph. To qualify for the child rate when paying for a buffet meal, that child needed to be under 4ft 7ins. But when one family went out to eat, their nine-year-old daughter was measured by the staff and her parents told that at 4ft 11ins, they would need to pay the adult fee instead.

The parents were furious, because of course, she’s a child, but the restaurant remained insistent (even when contacted by the press) that they were following their policy.

In both cases, perhaps the best thing to do – customer service-wise – would have been to show some empathy and maybe make an exception to the rule (and then possibly review those rules). In choosing to rigidly adhere to internal guidelines, these organisations no only alienated the people involved, but gained bad press as a result.

Bugging Byron

Sometimes you have no choice by to rigidly adhere to the rules and no choice by to bear the consequences. Byron Burger found this out when it invited its workers in for an important meeting – only for them to get picked up by immigration officials in planned raids.

If the restaurant chain had refused to co-operate with authorities, it would have faced massive fines, but by cooperating with them so readily it has been suffering much more in the court of public opinion.

Apart from the usual online protests (#BoycottByron), protestors have released cockroaches and locusts in central London locations. They’ve also been standing outside Byron locations with protest signs, urging people not to eat there.

The protests have continued into August, with campaigners continuing to demonstrate outside Byron locations across the country.

Byron Burgers seems to be focusing on the impact the protests are having on customers, rather than the event that instigated the reaction. While it’s true that there’s probably not much it can do to salvage its reputation with some campaigners, it could acknowledge the negative effects that its actions had on the individuals involved.

It’s rare that a crisis happens which is completely beyond a brand’s control. Even seemingly unpredictable events – like smart pet feeders breaking down, or payment system failures at Etsy – can be avoided if the right technology, processes and contingencies are in place. At the very least they can be remedied quickly. But when a crisis is created by something that lies within a brand’s ethos or the crisis is caused by a brand obeying the letter of the law, it can be harder to find a rapid solution.

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