The social media crisis showdown: O2 vs Progressive Insurance

Last week we shared our top tips for preparing your social media for crisis response. This week we take a look at two recent corporate crises and how they approached social media as part of their crisis communications strategy, and decide who came out on top.

In the blue corner we have O2’s network blackout in July, which left O2, GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile customers across the UK unable to call, text or use data services for 24 hours. And in the red corner we have Progressive Insurance, who suffered a major reputational blow when Matt Fisher’s Tumblr entitled “My sister paid Progressive Insurance to defend her killer in court” went viral. This post claimed that the under-insured driver who killed Katie Fisher in a car accident was represented in court by a Progressive attorney so that the insurance company could avoid paying $75,000 of life insurance.

O2 began slow and steady, replying to individual Tweets in a cautious ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ style. However, the gloves quickly came off and the rulebook was thrown out the window as O2 began favouring humour and wit over grovelling tweets in reply to the thousands of angry customers taking to Twitter. These shocked many into admiration, and the funniest replies were re-tweeted across the network. Here are a couple of personal favourites:

Continue reading

How To…Manage your social media in a crisis

There are numerous ways in which social media can (and will) play an integral role for your organisation during a crisis. Social media has been known to both amplify and even start incidents that may result in reputational damage. However, if managed appropriately, it can also be used to communicate with customers and mould public perception.

This guide covers the key points you should consider when engaging with social media during a crisis.

Number 1: HAVE A PLAN

Think how many times you’ve rehearsed for a tangible crisis, a bomb drill, a fire evacuation. Like it or not, social media is now an integral part of life and business. If you use any aspects of social media ensure it is included in your Crisis Communications Plan and rehearsed to trouble-shoot any pitfalls. Continue reading

Planning Crisis Communications

Never has the need for a thoroughly planned, well-rehearsed, comprehensive crisis communications plan been more apparent: the recent incidents involving NatWest, O2 and Barclays (to name just a few) have amply demonstrated the complexity involved in achieving a ‘good’ crisis communications response when under considerable pressure both internally, and under the scrutiny of the press and general public.

The delivery of any successful crisis management response is reliant on excellent communications: a rehearsed, effective, integrated and ready-to-go crisis communications plan is essential. This involves much more than the day-to-day communications strategy. The plan should: Continue reading

The RBS Group – united in crisis? Part Two: Ulster Bank

By Dominic Cockram

The technical ‘glitch’ that affected all RBS Group banks following a corrupted systems update on the 19th June became a full-blown crisis for Ulster Bank in Ireland, with ramifications still being felt by some customers over a month later.

Last week we looked at how NatWest handled their crisis communications in response to this same problem and concluded they did pretty well. So how did their ‘sister’ Ulster Bank fair?

While on 20th July, NatWest reinstated their advertising, marking a return to ‘business as usual’, Ulster Bank customers, were still awaiting details of compensation, and some seemed to be experiencing new problems. Even now, it does not seem clear where the original failure lies, or why it took Ulster Bank so much longer to rectify the problem than NatWest, who were hit by exactly the same issue, but resolved the technical fault just 4 days after it surfaced. Ulster Bank customers, in contrast, were told that Continue reading

The RBS Group – united in crisis? Part One: NatWest

By Dominic Cockram

It is now over a month since we first heard of a ‘technical glitch’ affecting the RBS Group, which left many NatWest and Ulster Bank customers’ unable to access funds as payments were not processed. The technical problem was caused by a corrupted overnight software update on the RBS systems which affected all of the Group’s banks.

While this began as one shared crisis, it has developed very differently for NatWest and Ulster Bank: the problems at NatWest may be an increasingly distant memory for some, but those with Ulster Bank are still experiencing problems with payments and have only just received information on how to claim compensation.

The crisis communications’ responses from the two banks were equally divergent. After a slightly slow start (the first official Tweet about the technical failure was at 7:43am 21st June) NatWest went all-guns blazing to get their message out, sending text messages to all customers, and releasing a video of Susan Allen, Director of Customer Services, apologising and providing reassurances to those affected by the problems. As the crisis escalated, they began to engage actively with customers via social media, answering questions and complaints directly. They managed to keep the media on-side, and major news outlets provided reliable and helpful information for customers, and angry readers’ stories were countered with items on helpful NatWest staff. This crisis response of pro-active, confident and extensive communications, in conjunction with extended opening hours, additional call centre staff and compensation plans seems to have placated many, and even at the height of the problems, there were those singing the praises of the NatWest staff:

Continue reading