Belgian telecom player Telenet has been having a very hard time coping with a pop-up Facebook page criticising the provider for attracting new customers with an iPad mini as a welcome gadget. In less than two days’ time the “Telenet, we loyal customers would also appreciate receiving a gift” Facebook page accumulated more than 110.000 likes, far more than Telenet’s proprietary page ever had.
For us, issue managers and crisis experts, it’s yet another interesting case underlining the power of social media. Did Telenet pick up and manage the sudden reputation crisis in a professional manner? Unfortunately not. When the company announced that they would respond at the end of the day, it was clear that the response would be too little too late. And so it was. But I don’t want to analyse Telenet’s response and missed opportunity to prevent a reputation issue from turning into a business issue. I want to go to the essence of the story.
A rightful claim launched on a newly created Facebook page completely derailed under a wave of frustrations vented by Telenet customers. It was probably not the intention of the creator of the page, a loyal Telenet customer, to kick off such a chain reaction. She merely wanted to make a point about companies attracting new customers with new toys while ignoring existing customers’ concerns and complaints. Mobistar learned a hard lesson in this respect. Now it seems to be Telenet’s turn to learn that customer attraction and attrition should be equally evaluated on service quality and pricing and not be influenced by perks awarded to merely buying the service. Isn’t high quality service for a correct price what all customers – new and existing ones – at the end of the day are really looking for?
Social media platforms are great tools to bring people together and make things move forward for the better. Telenet’s experience unfortunately highlights the vulnerability of B2C companies in this respect. It’s a hard learned lesson about customer relations, as the power of social media can turn an innocent initiative of one individual into a an unforgiving crowd in no time.
It will be interesting to see how Telenet will pick up its customers’ signal and how companies in general will learn from its experience.
On Twitter, 140 characters make up a message. That’s not much and some businesses, especially small to medium-sized ones, still think Twitter is a no-go. They say it’s too short, too uncontrollable and too time-consuming.
At first glance, Twitter might indeed not seem an ideal communication tool, but in just a couple of years it has proved the world that sometimes “short” is powerful. From its genesis as a basic online SMS service, it has evolved into a world-encompassing communication tool; Twitter users generate more than 200 million tweets per day, and the microsite often beats the most sturdy news platsforms in the world with speed and accuracy. And don’t forget that close to 750 million searches are performed on Twitter every single day, making it a toup-four search engine.
Communicating in 140 characters can be extremely tricky, and when done in an unconsidered or trigger-happy way, a lot of damage to brand and reputation can be done in a heartbeat. Here are 10 ways that brands risk ruining their reputation on Twitter and, ultimately, across their marketplace:
1. You have the wrong handle. A good Twitter name should be short, catchy, simple and recognizable, and refer to your brand.
2. You’re nobody except an egg on a blue background. If you do not tell people who you are and what you stand for, you’ll never reap ROI. Use your profile to show what it is you do and what you stand for. Include your location and website, and remember to use the C3 rule: be catchy, concise and complete. Also know that the default Twitter background with the impersonal “egghead” avatar is not the road to success. Dress up the bride. Stand out. Be sparkling, inventive, inviting.
3. You’re a robot or a zombie. Communicating from a corporate pedestal and hiding behind a shiny logo gets you nowhere. People want to interact with people, not with a brand. This is the engagement part of social media; So mention in the profile who is tweeting on behalf of your brand. You’ll be amazed how much more interaction is triggered by having real people represent your brand.
4. You’re selling. If you only communicate about your beloved product all the time, people will unfollow you faster than you can press “send.” People are not interested in your sales talk or marketing language. They are interested in finding useful content, hearing smart viewpoints and getting helpful tips.
5. You’re boring. People follow you because they think you might share good information with them, or because they want to build a relationship with you or your brand. So give ’em what you want. As a rule of thumb, divide your tweets in three buckets, one-third for conversing with people, one-third for spreading great content that others brought to you and one-third for bringing great original content to the platform. This optimal mix will allow you to boost followers, connect and engage.
6. You’re shy. Staying in your corner will not win any business or Twitter goodwill. Growing a Twitter account is hard work, and it requires commitment and a willingness to connect. The easiest way to get followers is to follow people. So search for and follow relevant accounts. So search for and follow relevant accounts. If you find someone interesting, check out who he or she is following and add some of these folks to your lists too.
7. You follow spambots and prostitutes. Tell me who you follow and I will tell you who you are, so be careful. When people start following you, it’s common courtesy to follow them back. That’s how a relationship gets started. Be smart about it though. Make sure you filter out the spammers, spambots, prostitutes and random bizarre people.
8. You don’t keep your house clean. Once in a month, do some housekeeping. Look to see if you’re following the right people back and if you answered all messages. Decide whether or not to keep people on your follow list if they are not following you. Ask yourself if the accounts you do follow are relevant in your Twitter stream. If not, unfollow them. Also, accounts that haven’t tweeted in 90 days are usually stone dead, so unfollow.
9. You’re rude. Yes, you have the right to disagree with other people and have your own opinion. What you don’t have is a reason to be rude or impolite. Deal with the message, not with the messenger, and disagree in a pleasant style.
10. You’re lazy. Remember that point earlier about unfollowing accounts that are dead? You’ll be unfollowed if you aren’t a regular tweeter. And remember that once you starte engaging, you’re in it for the long run and should never stop. Your social capital builds with every single tweet.
BONUS TIP: never tweet when angry, drunk, in love, upset, confused or high on emotion. What you put out there cannot be taken back.
Originally published in PRNews’ Digital PR Guidebook, by Danny Devriendt
Originally published in DMix Magazine (June 2011) www.dmix.be
Yes, you should definitely do the “Social Media thing” if you want to be part of the cool crowd. Write a blog, start a Facebook account, get to know Twitter, etc. But don’t be too quick though! You first need to get the right tools. It’s like going to the gym: you wouldn’t want to be seen without the right attributes, now would you? The same goes for social media: without the right tools, it will never work properly. So be prepared and make sure you have this checklist at hand:
- Twitter: no. Do not use www.twitter.com. It’s there, that’s for sure, but sending tweets “from web” will get you nowhere in the charts. You need a nice tool that allows you to tweet, search, filter and manage. Take your pick. My personal favourite is www.tweetdeck.com It works smoothly on my iPad, iPhone, laptop, and it allows me to juggle with multiple Twitter accounts, update my Facebook status and my LinkedIn status. All for free. www.hootsuite.com is a good alternative. To find influential people on Twitter (per category, country or city), or track how well you are doing yourself, check www.twittergrader.com. Want to check your true influence? Go to www.klout.com . For housekeeping, keeping track of who follows you or who does not and who stopped tweeting, use tools like www.ReFollow.com or www.haklus.com. To manage, measure and time your tweets a CRM tool is handy. I use http://spredfast.com/. I love it. It allows you to draw fabulous graphs and stats that will make you shine in the boardroom.
- Scoop-it: All that wisdom you read. Blog posts that make you think. Movies that make you laugh. Intriguing debates on forums. You collect tons of very wise things, and all your friends, family and clients want to know how you became so scary smart. Help them by using scoop-it. This content aggregation and curation tool allows you to share all the good content that you find. Within days, you’ll have a faithful audience reading through it: good for your credibility and your thought leading status.
- Facebook: Facebook is comprehensive on its own, and comes with a plethora of build-in features that you can benefit from. If you plan to deep-dive into Facebook communities, you will need global and local pages, and will require tons of moderation: take a look at www.buddymedia.com. Awesomely powerful.
- Blog: Let’s talk about that blog of yours. Does it have a personalized URL? Like www.youandme.be? Or do you go for the free version www.youandme.wordpress.com? Ouch. There goes your credibility. Use www.combell.be or www.godaddy.com and get a proper domain name for a couple of bucks a year. Same for your Facebook account name, your Twitter handle, your LinkedIn profile. A great tool for your blog is www.wordpress.org. It is freeware, open source, complete and by far the most comprehensive one to use. Competitors like www.tumblr.com and www.blogger.com do their best. But you want the best, right? And don’t forget to register your blog on directories like www.technorati.com or www.blogsontop.com. Use feed burners like www.feedburner.com to propagate your posts even further.
- Show-off: Nothing shows more of you, your team, your products than something people can see. Smiling happy people are your best way of evangelizing how great you are. So…social tools that allow you to post pictures are worth a fortune. Any time something nice, fun, unexpected, etc happens, snap a picture and share it on your social media ecosystem. My personal favourite? Without a doubt Instagram (www.instagram.com). It interacts with your smartphone in a seamless way, has some cool build-in filters, and you can share it without any pain on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Try it. You’ll be amazed how many people will interact on your little pieces of art.
- Location: Ha! There you are…it’s good to have a flourishing business, but how easy do you make it for people to find you, check in to you, and give you free publicity? Most Belgian businesses vastly underestimate the potential of location based services, and social check-ins. Making sure your business is easily findable on Google maps (and why not, Google Earth) is a must. Claim your offices on Gowalla and Foursquare and post their “check in here” stickers on your window. More and more people make it a habit to check-in, and by doing so expose your brand/location to their social network.
How long will it take before the Belgian National Railways discover the merits of crisis preparedness?
By Corneel Maes
The Belgian National Railways (NMBS) continue to accumulate blunders against all common sense in issues management and crisis communications. What seemed to be an “incident” for any well prepared railway or public transport organization yesterday, turned out to be a disaster situation with the NMBS since they were not able to get grips on the situation and – shame on them – neglected to properly communicate about the issue.
Technical failure can happen as confirmed by Murphy’s Law. But as a public transport company – already being under public criticism for its performance and its communications (in)capabilities – should have appropriate emergency scenarios at hand and be able to handle them rather swiftly.
Yet I didn’t see the NMBS act responsibly according to the three ground rules in crisis communications:
Rule number 1: Show empathy. Be seen to care.
Leaving train passengers for hours in overheated trains is not exactly what I associate with being empathic and caring for customers. Instead, the city of Ghent was responsible and pro-active enough to activate their calamity plan and take care of stranded passengers.
Rule number 2: Take ownership of the situation.
I can be very brief. I didn’t see a lot of ownership in trying to cope with the situation. There were no firm decisions made nor communicated to restore the train traffic or provide alternative solutions for passengers.
Rule number 3: Be transparent. Say what you do and do what you say.
Well sorry, but I didn’t see a lot of reassuring, convincing communication attempts to explain what went wrong and how the NMBS was getting on top of things and working to provide immediate solutions to passengers.
All in all, quite disappointing that an organization, criticized in the past for the lack of effective communications, has again missed the opportunity to get its act together.
In the meantime Belgian politics call for dismissal of the CEOs of the three companies that together form the Belgian National Railways. But is that really the solution the NMBS needs? Are the CEOs accountable? Yes. Will their dismissal change anything? No. Confronting them with their responsibility is not enough. It’s high time somebody teaches them how to get their company to a decent state of crisis preparedness.
By Nicholas Courant (www.twitter.com/nicholascourant)
“It’s better to have a good neighbour than a distant friend” We’re all familiar with the saying, but in an age where tweeps across the globe are just 140 characters away, it’s so easy to neglect the nearby. And yet, your next-door neighbours or the local communities around your company sites do have a greater influence on your company and your reputation than you would sometimes realize.
Just last week, I read the story of two owners of a trendy club in Belgium shutting down their flourishing business because they couldn’t cope with the complaints of their neighbour any longer. They, and their landlord, had been ignoring his protests against the late-night noise caused by the club and its trendy, boozed up visitors. After all, the club had been around for years and the angry tenant should have known before he decided to rent the place. A reflection that many of us probably would have made, but one that boomeranged back into their faces. All of a sudden, Saturday night’s regular visitors included not only trendy youngsters, but also coppers with decibel meters. Needless to say, the shiny blue uniforms didn’t exactly boost business for the club.
These days, companies are increasingly recognizing the value of a community manager for their online reputation. Well, why not have your community manager take a broader perspective on “community” and adopt a holistic approach towards distant and local communities alike? After all, what’s the sense of building a powerful group of online evangelizers if locally, your reputation is being slanted by angry neighbours badmouthing your company in the press? And what if they start influencing the same politicians that you rely on to grant you your next exploitation permit?
The principles of accessibility and transparence should therefore be applied to all influential stakeholders. Yes, also the angry neighbour that deep inside you would rather ignore. So reach out to the local community before they turn against your company, monitor their sentiments by offering quick and easy opportunities for feedback, identify the local top influencers and before all, try to look for solutions together. Not just because it’s your duty as a good and responsible neighbour, but because in the end it’s better for business. Hence my plea to get community manager from behind his or her computer screens (yes, they’re usually surrounded by a number of screens) and have them take a walk around the block from time to time. A bit of fresh air won’t hurt your community manager, but it will help you to find a good neighbour.
By Corneel Maes
Real time reputation management has substantially increased corporate risk awareness and crisis preparedness, however it can never be an insurance premium against Murphy’s Law. Accidents will happen, as they say. Unfortunately. A lot has been said and written about crisis communications, but there is an element to good crisis management that is often overlooked. And yet, it is as important as managing the crisis in the first place: what about post-crisis evaluation & learnings?
I’m a big fan of not immediately dropping the pen and sitting back as soon as the crisis situation is under control. Post-crisis evaluation is becoming even more important as we manage reputations on-line and in real time. Two intertwined aspects are important to assess, with the crisis management experience still fresh in the heads.
First of all internal processes: How did the crisis management team interact? Was initial fact finding effective and quick enough? Were initial data reliable? Did internal procedures work? Was the crisis room equipment fit for the job? What about stress resistance within the crisis team? Does the crisis communications plan need an overhaul? I could go on with more questions in the checklist.Learning from mistakes AND from things that went well will strengthen the team and the processes for a next (hopefully never occurring) event.
And then there is the outside world. How did the media do? Did our messages resonate with audiences on-line and off-line?? Did we come across valuable advocates on twitter and facebook? How can we do damage repair with influential bloggers who have been voicing criticism for the past 2 weeks or 2 months? Doing that exercise – combined with on-line measuring – enhances crisis preparedness yet another nudge.
By Corneel Maes, Crisis Comms Specialist
BP keeps working its way through its worst nightmare, no doubt about that. I wonder whether they – or any of their competitors for all that matters – have ever been serious about preparing for the impossible, for the unconceivable. It may sound silly, but isn’t that what crisis preparedness is all about? Never mess around with Murphy’s Law… And yet, it seems that the ultimate crisis scenario (a leaking well, completely out of control) was not in the crisis preparedness books at BP. Definitely not at the engineering level, let alone in the communications department.
What we’ve seen over the past 50 days is a crippled organization, as winged as the poor pelicans and seabirds they are accountable for. While struggling to close the leaking well in a tragic trial and error engineering process, properly communicating about it seems an even bigger challenge for BP.
The company’s inability to communicate transparently about the three key questions – What happened? What are you doing about it? How will you contain the impact? – has become the story in the digital media. Twitter took over and BP has completely lost grips on its reputation and credibility by starting crisis communications off the wrong foot. It will take their so carefully built market value and brand value to an unprecedented low for a long time.
The fake BP announcement in Dutch newspapers saying “SORRY” (with an asterisk referring to a footnote reading : “but you wanted to get cheaper oil”), shows that the brand has now been completely hacked. The world is at war against BP – as a company, as a brand, as a member of the community.
To me, these are the top 3 management behaviors that should never be overruled in a crisis:
- Be reassuring but only promise what you are sure you can deliver
- Say what you do and do what you say
- Be perceived as part of the solution, not the problem
To date, my score for BP on each of these behaviors is below average, to say the least. It’s high time BP reviews the basic rules of crisis communications and lives up to them.
Carrefour is hitting the front page of all Belgian newspapers like mad today: local Management is set to announce quite a hefty restructuring to the works council, probably carving out some 20 supermarkets and causing job losses for up to 1 out of 3 people. The unions had already seen the dark cloud hanging over the company and pre-empted today’s announcement by … blocking one of Carrefour’s main distribution centers. They’re playing hard ball – following the example of AB InBev’s unions who succeeded in referring another major restructuring plan straight to the shredder machine only a couple of weeks ago. Carrefour unions must have thought: “What a great victory that was! We can do it too!” A very worrying evolution. Especially in a country that has historically been thriving on stable, constructive social relationships for building shareholder value, customer loyalty and employee engagement. In today’s economic reality, employer/union relationships have completely diluted from what they used to be, say just one decade ago. The “constructive collaboration” has been swapped for “angry confrontation”. How come? The economic crisis has increased and emphasized the pace of an evolution that was kicked off when the decision centers in most Belgian companies moved abroad. Belgo-Belgian works councils need to sit around the table now with senior managers that look at the business with a broader view, an open mind and an international background and experience. They talk a different kind of language. Unfortunately the Belgian unions have missed out on that evolution as they kept holding on to their arguments “for old times’ sake”. It’s worrying, as it pollutes the whole socio-economic climate in our country , and our chances to move out of the crisis by rebuilding a strong entrepreneurial environment. Constructive dialogue is turning into the clash of the titans. Belgian unions urgently need to rethink their license to operate. If not, more Opel Antwerp, AB InBev and Carrefour cases are bound to follow. And who will be the winners then, you think?
Michael Ramah, a partner and director of strategic planning at Porter Novelli, was a guest on PBS’ “Nightly Business Report” on February 9 to discuss how Toyota can repair its image in the midst of its global recall.
In the five-minute segment, Michael indicates that the company needs to move from apology to action and work swiftly to get its cars back on the road. He applauds the decision of Toyota’s President and CEO Akio Toyoda to come to the U.S. to meet with dealers, suppliers and customers to assess the crisis firsthand, and strongly encourages them to leverage social media to establish and maintain engagement with consumers.
Watch the interview below:
Posted by Kathy Van Looy