How to deal with a social media crisis: lessons from Australia

Andrea Sophocleous

In the age of social media, "always on" communications and real-time marketing, brands have opportunities to engage consumers that were scarcely imaginable a decade ago. But the downside of this megatrend is that a crisis, whether big or small, can escalate with almost impossible speed across the web, as the word spreads among news organisations, bloggers and members of the public.

This latter subject came under particular scrutiny at ad:tech Melbourne in July 2013. And the advice given out to the conference audience would typically be as appropriate to a meeting of boy scouts as a gathering of senior marketers, as several speakers urged delegates simply to "be prepared".

Qantas learns the hard way

Jo Boundy, the head of internal and digital communications at Qantas, discussed how the need to develop a social media crisis plan hit home for the carrier in 2010, when the engine of a Qantas Airways A380 exploded while the aircraft was flying over Indonesia. Images of a young Indonesian boy holding up part of the engine after it had hit the ground sparked panic, as well as a wave of news stories speculating that the Qantas jet had crashed. The consequences were immediate.