One’s Missed Opportunity is Another’s Brilliant PR

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    Seizing social media opportunities creates crisis management benefits

    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it many, many more times – it pays to be in touch with social media.

    Last November, a young Brit named Thomas Cook thought it would be funny to ask travel agency Thomas Cook UK to donate a weekend in Paris to him due to the fact that they’ve shared a name for many years.

    The travel agency quite stuffily denied his request, but a week later Mr. Cook was shocked to find a message in his inbox from one of Thomas Cook UK’s competitors in the UK travel scene, Lowcostholidays.com. What did this message contain? Besides a few comedic jabs at their competition, it also held an offer for a weekend in Paris for two!

    We frequently refer to social media as being word-of-mouth amplified, and there is no better example than this. When Thomas finally took his trip to Paris this month, he posted the story complete with screenshots and a photo at the Eiffel Tower to Reddit (one of the world’s fastest growing social media sites, 42.9 million unique visitors per month and climbing), where it skyrocketed to the front page and drew over 2,000 comments and 56,000+ “up votes,” similar to “Likes” on Facebook.

    How is this linked to crisis management, you might ask? It’s simple – the more goodwill you bank before a crisis hits, the larger the cushion your reputation has to fall back on. By doing things that make your customers, potential customers, or any stakeholders happy, you create a positive association with your brand that will tilt their opinion when a negative crisis does occur. In other words, they are more likely to think, “this is a good company that’s run into a bad problem,” rather than, “this company doesn’t care about anything, it’s no surprise they’re in this mess.”

    With the greatest losses in crisis management history coming in the court of public opinion, it’s critical to take every opportunity to keep your reputation positive. Thomas Cook UK missed out, but we’d be willing to bet that Lowcostholidays.com is seeing a boom in sales right now, which means more opportunity to create lifetime customers and extra black ink on those financial reports.

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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, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]