Category Archives: social news

Qantas Airbus 380 emergency reveals social media challenges

Oh boy, this is what we in crisis communication in the age of citizen journalists and instant social media have been talking about. Today (10 Am Singapore time) a Qantas Airbus 380 mega-carrier on its way to Sydney had an explosion in an engine and made an emergency landing back in Singapore. While the plane was in the air, a passenger sitting at a window above the wing shot video with his cellphone clearly showing the increasing damage to the wing. The pilot can be heard explaining what is going on and what they are doing.

Meanwhile, twitter is going nuts with reports from passengers, including photos, being retweeted all over the place about the emergency landing.

So, here we have high drama being played out in real time with citizen journalists reporting. The question is, what is Qantas doing and how are they responding to the instant news?

Good thing: they have a Facebook page and Twitter account preset which they are using for marketing and customer relations.

Bad thing: They got the initial information completely wrong, they did not (and as of this writing) still have not tweeted anything about it. They did get a statement up on their website but I don’t know how long it took to do that. The statement did correct media reports saying the plane had crashed, however Reuters reported that Qantas told CNBC that the plane had crashed.

The other information they got wrong, according to this post on tnooz is that at the same time that Qantas was telling Australian media that no wreckage from the damage plane was found, there were photos showing up on Twitter (yfrog) that showed people on the island of Batam holding up pieces of wreckage with the Qantas logo on it.

The other thing that Qantas did very right was immediately ground all their brand spanking new Airbus 380s. You don’t want to have engines blowing up on brand new airplanes–actually, you don’t want that on really old airplanes either.

What’s the bottom line? Qantas had done so many things right in terms of preparation, but overall would get probably get a C- to F grade in this event for these reasons:

– they didn’t communicate where the most active, relevant communication was happening–Twitter

– they provided at least some incorrect information early on. Even if I give them the benefit of the doubt and say the Reuters got it wrong, which I suspect, they still denied the existence of aircraft damage when the evidence was pretty clear.

What we have been saying here for a long time is: 1) Be fast or be irrelevant. Given the speed and failure to use Twitter to a large degree their communication became significantly less relevant. 2) Don’t lose credibility by inaccurate information.

What they should have done in the obviously hectic first hour or so of this event, is communicated on Twitter and through their website, Facebook, etc., that they are aware of the incident, they can confirm an engine problem and that as soon as they have additional information they can confirm they will publish it. At least they would have been part of the stream.

YouTube, Michael De Kort, and the new whistleblower phenomenon

Wow, talk about getting legs. Yesterday I blogged (based on a lawyer’s blog) about the latest whistleblower strategy using YouTube. Today it is in Time Magazine.

There are so many things to comment about this. This one I can’t avoid. James Bruni made the point that PR folks should be refocusing on mainstream media and admit they can’t control the blogosphere. He’s right about no control, but here is an example of a whistleblower’s probably unwarranted complaints suddenly making big time news via the MSM. And it came about through the new social media of the video site YouTube, plus probably the blog discussion. You simply can’t draw lines like that, Mr. Bruni. It is all important, and the blogworld and social media world is getting every more important.

Note what the Lockheed spokesperson says about not trusting what people put on YouTube. And then the comment from the reporter–“‘Anybody with a webcam and something to say, regardless of whether it’s true or not, can say it on YouTube,'” complained a Lockheed spokeswoman. This is, of course, the same charge leveled against bloggers and other amateur newsgatherers; and one could argue that is precisely the point.”

Crisis communicators–ever more vigilance is needed. You need eyes on all sides of your heads and not up your backside. What is said in one presumably obscure corner of the vast global conversation can find its way into Time and the front page of newspapers in mere moments. Is this an instant news world?

Can you digg it? Not if you're BP

Interesting article about “social news” in Fortune magazine. Seems the business world is waking up to the reality of 2.0 and the whole social phenomenon of the web. Particularly in this case sites like digg.com and newsvine.com. Here’s the article. 

For most in the corporate communications world the question is going to be: what does this mean for me? It means that you can listen in and participate if you want to the conversation going on around the global watercooler. If you overheard in passing a group talking around the watercooler about you, or your company, or your family, or someone or something important to you, would you stop and listen.

Well, BP can now stop and listen to what people are saying–in this case about the problems with the Alaska pipeline. Here’s the digg watercooler talk. 

Like at most watercoolers, you will see a diversity. The inane to the intelligent. The uninformed to the somewhat informed. Of course, there is no company participation. I wonder if they are even hanging around the edges listening. I hope so. It is one little snippet–hardly representative, of the conversation going on around the world.