Qantas Neglects Twitter in Crisis

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    Airline ignores opportunity to communicate and connect via social media

    You don’t have to look hard to see the prominent role Twitter is playing in major crises. When engine problems forced a Qantas Airbus A380 to make an emergency landing in Singapore last week, passengers were tweeting pictures of the damage as their plane sat on the tarmac.

    In the hours after, Qantas was in a scramble, trying to combat inaccurate media reports on several fronts, including several that claimed the plane had actually crashed, and being made to look somewhat foolish as they denied any wreckage being found on a nearby island while a photo from that very island showing locals holding a large piece of debris circulated around Twitter with the hashtag #QF32.

    With the story already on its way to exploding on Twitter, one would think Qantas would go to where its stakeholders were discussing things, but instead its main account, @QantasUSA, remained strangely silent on the issue, and visitors seeking information saw only earlier messages, including one that became somewhat inappropriate given the situation. Image from Tnooz.com:

    Finally, late on September 4th, the airline managed to get a link to its initial statement posted on the Twitter feed. The following day, though, Qantas suffered yet another engine scare, this time with a Boeing 747, and for three days now the page has stood without a posting as the rest of Twitter is abuzz with rumor and assumption about the two incidents.

    While Qantas did an excellent job ensuring the safety of its customers, its communication was sub-par at best. With such a large company, especially as a member of an industry known to hold inherent dangers, there is no excuse to not have at least one person assigned to handle Twitter postings and replies around the clock.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]