The new media and crisis management: lesson from Aero contractorsI have enjoyed flying Aero contractors for a while now. Besides the initial comfort of booking online at afair 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 andunavailable flights; but I did not really think it was a big deal until I heard similar stories from friends andfamily members.About two months back, there was news of a near-mishap as their aircraft developed a fault mid-air. Thefirst place I saw the news was a blog, I cannot actually remember seeing so much about it in print. Notso much was heard from the airline officials about the incident and what was done to prevent furtheroccurrences. If much was said, it had little or no effect as a few days later, I got numerous text messagesand 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 difficultsituation. Immediately, several full-page, centre spread announcements were published, denying thoseclaims. 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 VictoriaIsland and be informed of a robbery on Third Mainland Bridge. One can actually view traffic from yourmobile phone and even hold meetings millions of miles away. Information is transferred at the speed oflight 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 arespread like wildfire. Remember Bellview?When many people think of new media, they seem to think it just has to do with young ones and howthey spend their time. However, communication has never been tested and twisted like it is today andcorporations are one of the worst hit.While trying to send a press release to the newspaper house, a popular blogger whose auntie justsurvived the crash already drops the news as it’s fresh off the stove! It seems almost impossible to beatthe 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 newtechnologies seem to compound(or over-simplify )communication processes?Some suggestions:-Know your current audience: Yes, your audience might not change, but their habits might havechanged. While they would have waited for you to release a statement in the newspapers some yearsago, they might be discussing you on Facebook right now. Know them, their reading habits, theirpreferences and how best to reach them
-Maintain accounts in popular social media platforms: As cliché as this may sound, it is real. Airplanesare flown by even babies and so it is important to allow a space which helps you communicate with yourcustomers 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 crisiscommunication. People always feel comfortable and well respected when there is a sure line ofcommunication in times of crisis. It’s like having that friend or family member who will always listen toyour rants.-Be proactive: update your website with news, official statements of occurrences before people begin toask. Send releases to popular bloggers, websites, news portals, gossip sites, etc before they begin adiscussion on you.- Be mindful of relations and friends: in extreme cases, where there have been losses of lives orproperty, make sure you the family and friends are properly communicated to before others spread outthe 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.