Last week a tweet that an Airbus A380 had crashed was enough to send share prices (Rolls Royce) falling and kick off a crisis for the owner, Quantas, The plane did not actually crash but the case illustrates how increasingly Twitter is the first place a story will break and on-going commentaries ensue. The old mantra of “tell it first, tell it fast” now better describes a Twitter user than the actions of the crisis communication team.
Twitter users communicate in real time, as things happen. Their expectation is that organisations should be paying attention and respond likewise. There is no differentiation between a life and death crisis or a minor one, the expectation is the same – instant.
Is this realistic? I am aware of a few organisations where at least one person monitors Twitter and other RSS feeds on their PC. In another open office the same information is constantly displayed via a large screen on the wall. Paying attention however, is the easy part, a timely co-ordinated response much harder. On noticing a breaking crisis, members of the team are alerted and crisis plans put into action. Various people start the process of; verifying facts, writing statements, preparing spokespersons, and getting information out on all channels. It is in this response stage where expectations depart from reality. Checking facts takes time. The “tell it accurately” part is essential for communicators if not for Twitter users. How long is it acceptable to post or tweet “checking facts, further information to follow”. Are we looking at a ‘golden hour’ for reputation in crisis response?