Silence is a Failure

Yesterday, we talked about the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 and how social media sped up the public’s interest in the crash. Today, we’re going to talk about when the disaster is known. About how doing things the usual way is a recipe for a bigger disaster.

The problem isn’t that people need life-saving information–especially in a situation like this. The problem instead is that people think you don’t care. We’ve talked several times about how, as communicators, trust is our currency. Trust is predicated on a belief that the person looking to be trusted understands, or emotes with, the person being asked to trust. If we look like we don’t care, who the hell would trust us?

And that’s exactly the problem being faced by Asiana Airlines now. According to our new best friends at Simpliflying, it took SIX HOURS for Asiana to post a response on Twitter.

They’re investigating? Investigating what? Then, two hours later, they issued a press release:

But that delay didn’t mean that people weren’t looking for information. Indeed, their Facebook and Twitter followings shot up (see slides 25 and 27) in a way that most of us in the emergency world wish ours would.

People were doing anything and everything to find information. And when they didn’t find it issued officially from the airline, they complained.

kirby facebook

And they’ve been reeling ever since. There is no sympathy for Asiana.

But the part that has killed them is more than their silence. It’s the blast of communication from others that has made them look so out of touch.

Boeing (slide 15), other airlines (slide 16), NTSB (slides 17 and 18, though, admittedly their star has dimmed a bit since the day of the crash), and finally San Francisco airport (who did a ridiculously amazing job keeping their customers informed of the situation). During this amazing outpouring of online empathy and information distribution, Asiana was silent. And it’s in comparison that what they did was so bad.

Now think about the emergency you fear. When you take six hours to approve a tweet or a press release, will all of your partners and competitors and surrounding counties and states and agencies all stay silent, or will they make you look bad?

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