Monday, 3 September 2012

The Risks of Reputation: A New Nickname for Australia's Premier Airline.

Just last week Carrie Bickmore let the C-bomb slip on prime time television giving Qantas some unwanted attention, and possibly a new nickname come the next stoppage.

2011 wasn't exactly a stellar year for the country's premier airline when it comes to social media. Firstly there was the blackface competition where 2 fans were awarded wallabies tickets by promising to dress as Fijian-born Wallaby Radike Samo, sparking comments across Twitter and Facebook about the airline being racially insensitive. This was then followed by what was described as a mechanical, impersonal social media response to the grounding of its fleet and the ensuing customer chaos. To round out a far from perfect year the airline launched a competition inviting followers to win “a First Class gift pack feat. a luxury amenity kit and our famous QF PJs.” The challenge to followers was: “To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury.' Within 24 hours, the hashtag #qantasluxury had 1.5 million impressions. Most of the Tweets were negative toward Qantas. These examples highlight one of the major external risks related to web 2.0 engagement; the reputation of the organisation. Customers are free to post complaints and leave negative feedback and in the case of #QantasLuxury, even hijack a company's advertising efforts. This kind of negative exposure can have a huge impact as the intangible loss of reputation can significantly damage the hard earned brand, in a very short time (Burrows, 2011). During the industrial action, there were a few areas that the airline could've considered in more detail, mainly how the overwhelming amount of comments and posts should have been dealt with. Burrows suggests:
  • training employees in how to engage effectively in Social Networking Sites and knowing and knowing when to escalate issues to their legal advisers
  • having a system in place to respond to complaints on forums, sites and fan pages; and
  • having a documented effective social media strategy in place.
Although Qantas' social media team would be privy to engaging customers and dealing with comments, this unusual circumstance needed to be addressed in a different way to the usual plan, due to the high volume of enquiries and response (1000 tweets per minute!) which made it difficult to respond. In the wake of this disaster for the airline, four more social media managers were hired to make sure the company is in the right position to deal with the growing influences of social media. Carrie Pring who is part of the social media team at Qantas sums up her view "When people are unhappy with your brand, you’re going to hear about it through every comms channel you have. Social media just happens to be the most public one. Does that mean you run and hide away in the dark depths of social media obscurity until some day in the unforeseeable future when everyone loves you again? Or does it mean you sit up, man up, continue with your strategy and face the music when the melody of negativity comes your way? For mine I will always choose the latter, because safety is not what social media is about nor do I believe in attempting to receive only positive feedback. If people are unhappy about your brand, then it is best to elicit that feedback to be fed back to the business so that improvements can be made."
A bold view in my opinion, and probably not one reciprocated by the Qantas board, or the legal team. 

No comments:

Post a Comment