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Archive for the tag “conversation management”

MP’s on Twitter – Day 1 scorecard

There has been lots of comment about this being the first ‘social media Election’ in the UK. Undoubtedly the social networks are in place, there is scale in terms of numbers participating, and the political parties are fighting to win on this battleground.

So how did sitting MPs rate on day one of General Election 2010? I’ve conducted an unscientific survey to find out!


1. Search ‘MP’ in Twitter

2. Analyse content generated by UK MPs on day-one of GE 2010 (April 6th).

From a random sample of 25 UK MPs, 17 tweeted today (68 pct), nearly all referring to the official start of the Election campaign. Some of those without any content updates had been dormant for some time e.g. Tom Brake.

While this doesn’t in any way claim to be a comprehensive analysis, it does bring up some interesting points.

1.  There is apparently no consistency in content/message across party MPs

2. Similarly there is no evidence of a coordinated effort to ensure the campaign is kicked off via Twitter on day one 

3. Comments lack calls to action and clear opportunities to engage further.

If this is to be the first ‘social media Election’, one where parties can use it to make a difference, it will take more than a presence on platforms to make it happen. Content that engages and includes a clear online call to action would be a good start. Some content aggregation via the parties’ main sites/social outposts, would add consistency and visibility to individual MP’s content. Finally, genuine opportunities to debate issues online direct with candidates would see social media used to its full potential.

Game on. Let’s see if any one of the parties can use social media to its advantage in the closest Election for decades.

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A cultural approach to social media guidelines

Examples of company employees creating Social Reputation issues or crises are numerous. A common theme is for staff to attack their customers in a conversation with friends, and/or colleagues, on their personal social networks. These  comments get picked up by the crowd and amplified online. When they achieve enough momentum mainstream media run with them as an easily acquired newsworthy story, giving further legs to the sorry tales of customer hatred. Staff at each of  Ryanair, PC World, and Virgin Atlantic all gained infamy in 2009 for their comments about customers. In the case of Virgin Atlantic thirteen cabin crew were sacked.

So, as an employer, how can you prevent this happening to you? Sorry, but you can’t. There is always the risk of unintentional slip ups, ignorance, or rogue staff with an axe to grind, putting your organisation in a similar position. 

But you can mitigate the risks through a set of Social Media Guidelines. These Guidelines are designed to provide staff with a framework for what you consider appropriate behaviour within social media.  There is a huge range of guidelines out there, ranging from several pages, to just a few words.

This diversity reflects the unique culture of every company or organisation, and culture should be the key consideration when you’re creating them. So don’t spend weeks drafting policies in an ivory tower, dig into the culture of your teams, think about your customer service approach, your brand and your overall tone of voice. Talk about it, run some workshops to find out what your frontline staff think, kick out a set of guidelines that are a ‘living document’ and take feedback.

In this way you’ve got a chance to create something that can be ‘lived’. And that just might stop you joining the growing list of self-inflicted crisis case studies.

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How social media can save British Airways’ reputation

The acrimonious labour relations dispute between British Airways (BA) and its cabin crew staff is reaching boiling point. Initial strike action is scheduled for March 20-22, and as the dispute becomes a political football in the run up to the UK’s General Election the likelihood of a negotiated settlement recedes. BA’s Chief Executive, Willie Walsh, has been vocal about the ‘extensive contingency plans’ in place to try to keep services up and running during the strike, but is BA prepared for the reputational storm ahead in social media?

A quick look at the discussion boards shows that volume and sentiment is already running high. To BA’s credit it has already put some basics in place. Brand outposts are established at YouTube where BA has its own channel, on Twitter, and  its official Facebook fan page. The company has also taken a first step into content generation with a video from CEO Walsh prominent on the BA.com home page, and YouTube.

So a decent start, but things are about to get much tougher. During the unpredictable days of the strike when customers may be let down at short notice, the story will shift to how BA is handling the disruption. Any perception that BA isn’t doing everything it can to assists customers would result in heavy online criticism, and strengthen the hand of the strikers. However, with the right strategy the social media battleground is an area where BA can potentially score a big win.

So, what should the comms team be doing in the days and weeks ahead to find the ‘opportunity’ in this crisis .

1. Ramp up active listening, and train social CRM teams

BA is clearly listening to conversations on Twitter, offering advice and answers to customer enquiries through @British_Airways. BA should ramp up this activity by  using a real-time social media dashboard to monitor the entire web, identify issues, and respond to them. In order to be able to impress in this area BA should use the coming days to train up additional staff to deliver this ‘social CRM’, and signpost customers to the appropriate resources. Listening to the flow of comment on-line will also give BA access to valuable real-time intelligence around how the social media conversation is developing, and how this will affect the mainstream media’s handling of the story.       

2. Work out a compelling content strategy

BA is in the lucky position of having time to prepare for the strike days. This is a great opportunity to ramp up the content creation beyond the relatively corporate-feel video that has been published to date. How about getting some other BA staff talking about their mission to keep services running on strike days? Create some testimonials from loyal customers? Or, a technical explanation of just how flights will be kept moving during the strike? If Walsh was up for it, a camera crew following him to each of the affected UK airports on the strike days as he empathises with customers, would make for compelling content with high shareability. By creating a stream of content that moves the story forward hour by hour BA would increase its ability to keep control of the news agenda. 

3. Mobilise supporters

If it hasn’t done so already BA should landscape those influential travel, business, aviation, etc bloggers who are sympathetic to its side of the argument. These individuals can be used to seed the BA created content into the social sphere, increasing the opportunity for it to achieve widespread coverage. Handled correctly these supporters can also play a crucial role in defending  BA’s reputation from the powerful position of third-party advocates.   

4. Create a hub away from BA.com

BA’s strategy to date is to signpost customers to a specific strike information page on their site. When the dispute gets into full swing a more dynamic approach would be to set up a Tweetmeme hub similar to the Toyota Conversations page set up by Toyota to aggregate comment and content around its recent car recall. This is a bold strategy as it streams all comment, negative or positive. However, it demonstrates a transparent and open approach, gives a further platform to stream BA’s own content, and shows a company willing to listen to all stakeholders.

5. Move fast

As mentioned on these pages before, speed is of the essence when it comes to reputation management online. To act fast you need to be well prepared, and then execute your plans seamlessly. BA’s responses to any major developments or a groundswell of discontent online, need to be up in a matter of hours, and then constantly monitored. The BA team will all have to know their role, and ideally have trained for this scenario.   

In summary, if BA can successfully put the customer at the heart of every communication, and use social media to demonstrate it is ‘walking the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk’, it can emerge from this crisis with its reputation enhanced.

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A reputation attack a day – the new normal?

What makes a good news story? At its heart is the classic ‘who, what, why, when and how?’ from your journalism school 101. Add in the premise that ‘bad news sells’, and you’re on the same page as the editors at mainstream media outlets across the globe. Since the advent of the real-time web mainstream media journalists are being presented with these core facts on an hourly basis, combined with ‘instant case studies’ of the people involved. By tapping into these sources (and at the same time saving the extensive legwork and fact checking of the past) journalists have a ready stream of compelling copy. As a result the grievances of dissatisfied customers are increasingly finding their way into the public domain, requiring  companies to be in a constant state of readiness to manage these conversations.

In an excellent article in the Washington Post on the subject Bernhard Warner points out that ‘a genuinely timely and transparent response’ is now required, rather than the ‘spin’ of the past. Good advice for online crisis comms, but we believe it goes much further than that. Management teams brought up on a diet of  business thinking that glorifies the organisation are now being forced to re-think their entire approach due to the power of the social web. Some inspirational thinking in this area comes from social media commentator Umair Haque . He believes that companies need to go from ‘Great to Good’ , and rediscover their principles, to thrive/survive in the social age.

It’s going to be a long road for the majority of companies to adopt the authenticity, transparency and humbleness required to deal with these new ways of working, and new rules of engagement. For those willing to take that road the investment will pay off as dealing with online reputational threats becomes a day-to-day normality for every company.

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