Respond when your reputation’s threatened
The popularity of social media has certainly opened up organizations to new types of crises. For a perfect example, take a look at how a poster on Reddit.com, claiming to be a Delta Airlines employee, responded to a complaint about poor baggage handling:
“People get pissed off when their luggage gets busted up. Oh, you jam packed you’re [sic] suitcase with 70 lbs. worth of s–t? Well guess what, so did everyone else. All those bags are coming out on the carousel at the same time. I’ve seen bags literally explode because of the pressure on them.”
The same poster went on to answer questions in a spectacularly blunt manner regarding Delta policies on bending the rules for frequent flyers, late departures, and more, speaking with enough conviction to be taken seriously by other users.
Social media platforms like Reddit or Twitter, which allow users to remain anonymous, are the perfect grounds for disgruntled employees to drag their employer through the mud. Of course, the poster could just as easily have been an employee of another airline, or just a random denzien of the ‘net trolling his little heart away.
Delta either didn’t catch the story on Reddit or chose to duck down and hope it blew over, but it quickly grew legs when it caught the interest of major ‘net and several traditional media channels.
What should Delta have done? It couldn’t force the poster to reveal their identity, or delete the offending posts. It also couldn’t say 100% for certain that this person isn’t a Delta employee. What Delta could have, and should have done, is to issue a statement to the effect of, “these statements are not true, here are our actual policies, if you have any questions please contact…”
In the eyes of the vast majority of people who heard the story, Delta’s refusal to respond was as good as verifying the posts as truth. Defending your reputation is an essential part of crisis management. Neglect it, and the court of public opinion will deem you guilty as charged.
The BCM Blogging Team