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August 12th, 2010

Taking the Time to Get it Right

Yeah, you should have plans in place for any crisis you can foresee. Absolutely. Have plans and when the emergency arises pull them out and put them in to action. Make sure all relevant departments know what the plan is and then start the communications chain when a situation is erupting. We at Voce do this all the time and it’s served us well, with some programs we’ve put in place expanding beyond their original scope and being adopted by others within an organization that ordinarily wouldn’t have been touched by it.

Certainly “flight attendant loosing his cool on a parked plane” qualifies as something that by any reasonable expectation should have been foreseen. Even if that specific problem wasn’t, improper behavior by employees is a problem that a plan was likely in place to deal with. It just has to be.

Still Jet Blue has been criticized for taking a couple days before addressing the incident in question on their blog. To their credit the response to that post seems to be largely positive, rightly pointing out that it hits a good note by being self-effacing and funny, helping to overcome some of the hits they’ve taken in the last couple days and honestly saying it can’t talk about the incident much at the moment.

Instant publishing has skewed our expectations as to how fast people or companies should be responding to problems they encounter. The belief that all these posts need to be written within an hour of the incident with Twitter updates filling the time until something finally gets published, though, seems a bit cockeyed.

Sometimes – sometimes –  it’s far better to take the time to say the right thing than it is to throw out all sorts of half thought-out reactions immediately. As communicators and counselors it’s our job to tell our clients what the correct course of action based on our expertise and experience is. And sometimes that means it might take a couple days while everyone – both internally and externally – takes a deep breath and can approach the problem in a clear-headed and rational way.

Immediacy is great, but only if it’s in the long-term best interests of the person or organization doing the responding. Otherwise it can give the impression of an organization that is flailing as it first attempts to respond to the initial issue but in the process says something ill-advised that it then has to walk-back and then explain why it did that and so on.

A case could be made that Jet Blue’s response should have come sooner, sure. But when it did respond it got it right. More than speed that’s what really is supposed to matter.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Marketing

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