Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Crisis Communications: Megan’s Worse Nightmare Came True

Like many Singaporean Millennial, Megan was tired of the corporate life. She had graduated top of her class from NUS and was a successful in-house counsel at a MNC. The long hours, demanding bosses and rigid corporate structure stifled her and Megan felt like her life was over only as it had just begun.

One late night, while hunched over a stack of files, Megan cracked. Life had to be more than this! Humans were not put on this earth to work endless (and thankless hours) on things that will likely not matter in years to come. With the courage born out of the instinct to survive, Megan decided there and then to quit her job and to pursue her childhood dream of opening a café.

Soon, putting her corporate knowledge and experience to good use, Megan had opened her own little café in the heart of Orchard Road. Things were going great. Business was not booming, but it was still profitable and putting money into her pocket. In fact, if you asked Megan, she would say that the café was at its optimal point - Megan was not too busy and could sit back and smell the roses. The best part of all, Megan was marching to her own drum beat. She was her own boss with no one telling her what to do.

Being a millennial, Megan knew the dangers of social media. She had naturally heard of (and at points been a part of) social media “attacks” against businesses over poor service, alleged slights to consumers and even the occasional unethical behaviour. But never once did it occur to Megan that she would be the target of such an attack. After all, she was running a legitimate business and bad things always happen to someone else.

All that changed the week of April 2017. It had been a typical day of business and everything was humming along perfectly. Megan noticed, but did not really pay attention to a bunch of students that entered her café. They bought their drinks and, like typical Singapore students, brought out their text-books and started studying. Megan thought nothing about it. It was normal …. and just so Singapore.

What happened next could only have come out of a movie or a very bad dream. As the café was getting busy, Megan needed seats for customers that were streaming in. As the students had been sitting in the café for over 3 hours purchasing just 3 drinks between the 5 of them, Megan decided to approach the students to give up their seats for paying customers.

The students’ reaction was extremely negative. Instead of being considerate and freeing up the seats for paying customers, the students refused to leave claiming that it is their right to stay as long as they wanted. Even as Megan tried to explain that they are more than welcome to come back later, they were indignant and threaten Megan that they will post negative reviews on all their social media accounts telling their friends not to patronize Megan’s café. Left with no choice, Megan let them be. Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story.

The students posted negative reviews about Megan’s café on their social media accounts. They even went on Yelp, FourSquares and on numerous blogs to defame (for lack of a better word) Megan’s café. Megan did not know what to do and soon, as word got around, Megan’s business began to suffer.

Thinking that it would be best to remain quiet and hope for the storm to pass, Megan decided not to respond. After all, responding would only bring more attention to the negative online mention.
Sadly, perception is reality and as the negative reviews took on a life of their own, Megan’s silence did not help and within months, business was so badly affected that Megan had to close her café.

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Like Megan, many business owners do not realize the dangers of social media. Or, perhaps they do, but the 'it will not happen to me' mentality is strong. As the above true story shows, knowing how to handle a social media crisis is no longer a good to have. In today’s era of smart phones, knowing how to handle a social media crisis is a must have.

This online crisis communication course on Udemy is designed for people who are responsible for the social media accounts of their organization i.e. business owners, PR professionals and brand managers. At the end of the course, participants will be able to identify a potential crisis, assess it impact on the organization and take the necessary actions to deal with the crisis. Don’t be like Megan. Be prepared. 

Click here to take the course now - a small investment to protect your business.

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