Magazine article Marketing

Pre-Emptive Strike

Magazine article Marketing

Pre-Emptive Strike

Article excerpt

BA's social-media response to industrial action offers a model for other brands.

As thousands of people were scrabbling to change their travel arrangements earlier this month, to avoid being stranded by the British Airways strikes, the airline was conducting a damage-limitation exercise via YouTube.

This quick social-media turnaround was not an off-the-cuff response to the crisis, but part of a detailed contingency plan that BA had put in place before the strike dates were announced.

Social media reaches 77% of the online population and sites such as Facebook and Twitter are used by 28.3m people in the UK, according to research company InSites Consulting. This means that using the channel to communicate with consumers during an emergency has become imperative for brands.

Contingency planning

Jill Lloyd, head of social media at digital agency LBi, suggests that brands should always, as BA did, develop a social-media crisis-response strategy before any serious problems arise. To minimise the damage, she advises marketers be ready to respond swiftly and ensure they have the necessary resources to cope with public questions.

This wisdom in this is demonstrated by the success of British Airways' tactical marketing campaign. A series of videos featuring chief executive Willie Walsh providing updates on the impact of the strike and apologising for the inconvenience caused to customers has received more than 100,000 hits on YouTube and BA.com. According to research carried out for Marketing, the videos improved perceptions of the British Airways brand among 19% of the people who had seen them (Marketing, 24 March).

However, finding the right tone for social media, while keeping a brand's values intact, is not without its challenges. Nestle recently found this out to its cost, when it first demanded the removal of a critical Greenpeace video from YouTube and then deleted related posts from its Facebook page.

Will McInnes, managing director of social-media agency Nixon McInnes, characterises Nestle's approach as being too 'heavy-handed' and 'faceless' and suggests this is the reason customers were turned off. He argues the company should have opened up an honest dialogue with customers and offered them frank and accurate responses to queries. …

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