The new media and crisis management: lesson from aero contractors
I have enjoyed flying Aero contractors for a while now. Besides the initial comfort of booking online at a fair price (atimes), most of their flights, from my experience have been quite smooth and fast.
Recently, however, I have found that I reduced taking their flights for reasons such as delay and unavailable flights; but I did not really think it was a big deal until I heard similar stories from friends and family members.
About two months back, there was news of a near-mishap as their aircraft developed a fault mid-air. The first place I saw the news was a blog, I cannot actually remember seeing so much about it in print. Not so much was heard from the airline officials about the incident and what was done to prevent further occurrences. If much was said, it had little or no effect as a few days later, I got numerous text messages and blackberry messages of the poor condition of Aero aircrafts and how they are liable to accidents. The spread of these messages was so viral that even Aero knew they were up against a difficult situation. Immediately, several full-page, centre spread announcements were published, denying those claims. But the damage was done. People had lost their faith in Aero.
Blackberry owners will testify to how fast information is spread these days. When you can be in Victoria Island and be informed of a robbery on Third Mainland Bridge. One can actually view traffic from your mobile phone and even hold meetings millions of miles away. Information is transferred at the speed of light and does not allow for mistakes anymore. After the experiences of BP and many top firms online, businesses need to be careful how they manage their communications especially now that opinions are spread like wildfire. Remember Bellview?
When many people think of new media, they seem to think it just has to do with young ones and how they spend their time. However, communication has never been tested and twisted like it is today and corporations are one of the worst hit.
While trying to send a press release to the newspaper house, a popular blogger whose auntie just survived the crash already drops the news as it’s fresh off the stove! It seems almost impossible to beat the speed at which people send messages via the digital space.
What then, can brands such as airlines do to retain their customer’s loyalty even as these new technologies seem to compound(or over-simplify )communication processes?
–Know your current audience: Yes, your audience might not change, but their habits might have changed. While they would have waited for you to release a statement in the newspapers some years ago, they might be discussing you on Facebook right now. Know them, their reading habits, their preferences and how best to reach them
–Maintain accounts in popular social media platforms: As cliché as this may sound, it is real. Airplanes are flown by even babies and so it is important to allow a space which helps you communicate with your customers whose lives are usually in your care for a period of time.
– Update status frequently and allow people to ask questions; to which there should be prompt , truthful and effective responses. No rudeness is permitted on your side whatsoever.
–Allow a dedicated account/phone number/blackberry PIN/email/profile/page etc for crisis communication. People always feel comfortable and well respected when there is a sure line of communication in times of crisis. It’s like having that friend or family member who will always listen to your rants.
–Be proactive: update your website with news, official statements of occurrences before people begin to ask. Send releases to popular bloggers, websites, news portals, gossip sites, etc before they begin a discussion on you.
– Be mindful of relations and friends: in extreme cases, where there have been losses of lives or property, make sure you the family and friends are properly communicated to before others spread out the information.
–Be in control: if possible, make sure that every news item on the incident has a solid input from you, rather than speculation or from “unknown sources”.
– While dealing with any crisis, work to produce a better recovery plan which involves the new media.
What is your “digital net worth”?
In totally secular terms, one’s net worth is very important and can determine various opportunities one is like to meet. Most of us are more comfortable and confident with a higher net worth and people labor daily to protect their net worth and increase it.
The digital space seems to be a world which exists in a virtual space and these days it feels even as real as the real world. Many more activities go on in the digital space than we can visualize and so a few days ago, I asked myself, if the world was reset, everything was formatted, erased and the digital space served as the backup, will I still exist? If I exist, how relevant will I be; more relevant than I am or less? What will I be known as? What will be my profession? who will be my friends? Which company will still be in existence, which companies will be stable? And most of all, what will be my net worth?
I thought of various online entrepreneurs and tried to position them in various offices.
Of course Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google will be UN presidents, Seun Osewa of “Nairaland” will be Nigeria’s president, and “BellaNaija” will be the new “Silverbird” and so on.
Of course the world is not restarting this way. But many things are changing and the measures of effectiveness in various endeavours use different ways and techniques now. If the world restarts as hypothesized here, what happens to the scientist, teacher, professor, tailor, market woman, researcher, bus driver etc who does not have an email address? They might just seize to exist. What happens to that big conglomerate who just managed to have a webpage? They would probably be operating from the roadside. The corporate communication executive who doesn’t read and write his own emails? He will probably exist but not know his own home address. The Governor who calls Facebook a joke? He will watch as his office is being taken by someone else. ..The scenarios continue.
There are various possibilities that technology can bring and many times, it seems as if there is no use trying to keep abreast of various developments and how they might affect us. Of course, in Nigeria, there are many factors such as the absence of basic infrastructure that would determine the adoption of these technologies. However, it will not make sense if in the next century we cease to have any relevance just because we ignored developmental factors, which could have given us a chance at ruling the world. Reading the book “The world is flat” by Thomas Friedman opened my eyes to the possibility of moving forward by technology. China did it. India is doing it.
We may have no electricity, no good roads, no good water, health care, but we have GSM, we have some internet (although faulty) and we can start from there. Do not deny the usefulness of the new media; internet, social media, etc. They have changed our lives.
The Ben Carson story: An inspiration for meaningful living
I have read many books in my lifetime and at every point in time, I always have a book that I am reading. It was a surprise then, when I saw the movie, “Gifted hands: the Ben Carson Story”, and found out it was taken from the book based on the true story of this wonderful doctor. What was even more puzzling to me is the number of African Americans who do great things but we hear little of, leaving us with the stereotypical image presented in many media productions.
For some who do not know Ben Carson, just like me before I saw the movie, Ben Carson is an African American man who grew up to become a very distinct doctor against all odds. Born in 1951, Dr Benjamin Carson is a neurosurgeon and the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.
The story in this story began with Benjamin as a “dull boy” in class who was always mocked to the extent that he began to see describe himself as dull. His mother (God bless mothers), who was a single parent, with practically little or no education could not help Ben and his brother with homework because she could barely read herself. This seemed like an impossible situation where everything was against the tide of progress. Ben Carson became violent due to his being subjected to name calling as he attempted to fight back. Ben’s mother was determined to see her children shine above everyone else and even though she could not read to her children, she encouraged them to read. Sonya Carson limited her children’s watching of television and only let them play after they had finished their homework. She told them that if they worked hard enough with their God –given gifts, people will watch them on television. She required them to read two books every week and give a report on them (even though she could barely read). Within a year, Benjamin was top of his class and eventually, he graduated from Yale as a psychiatrist. His skills, which were developed during his intense preparation for life, earned him a medical degree in neurosurgery and Ben Carson led the surgical team who performed the first successful separation of Siamese twins, joined at the head.
Ben Carson’s story is very touching and also helps us realize how much we can achieve if we put our efforts into a particular thing. Perhaps what is more intriguing for me, was the transformation from a supposedly “dull boy” to someone who eventually broke grounds in medicine. This was not magic; it was simply the success of a story where the people involved played their parts right.
Sonya Carson had many reasons to be satisfied with her son being an average or dull student. She had to work two to three jobs, she had no husband and life was generally no piece of cake for the African American. She could easily have given up based on the false belief that Africans had lower intelligence and her son had no business being a doctor. She could have given up on his grades since a musical career might be an easier option: It was a way out for many African Americans. But she did not give up. She practically nursed her son to intelligence. She stirred up in him a true hunger for knowledge. She taught him that the important things were not the clothes you wore or how much money you had but how much you can grow to give to the world. She also taught him that he could always do better. She taught him to use his imagination .This is a lesson for all parents. A great part of the success of your child depends on you.
On a general note, the Ben Carson story teaches me that when you live life right, you will leave it right. Ben Carson had an option to be disobedient to his mother and claim that the divorce of his parents was having an effect on his stability. He had an option to live life on the streets like his friends who mocked him as he listened to classical music. Ben Carson had an option to refuse to read books from the library but he chose to. Just like many of us, Ben Carson had many choices. But he chose what was good, and meaningful. Today, it feels that choosing what is meaningful is choosing wrongly. Meaningful might not be very exciting or popular, but meaningful is long-lasting. At one of the scenes where Ben was being mocked, there was a particular girl that made fun of him and his scores. This girl was pretty and looked like everything was perfect for her. I never saw her in the movie again and I wonder if one third of Michigan knows who she is. But we know Ben Carson, through books, movies, documentaries and through the works of his hands. Even though he has recently suffered ill-health, he operates on more than three hundred children a year and has been inducted as a member of the society of world changers.
What do you watch? What do you read? Whom do you spend time with? What do you aspire to be? These are some questions we need to ask ourselves as we choose which way we want to live. The “dull boy” chose a meaningful life.
Lami Idakwo is a media and communication consultant with focus on new media. At present, she is the PR specialist at a Lagos based firm.