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Eurostar delivers masterclass in social media crisis management

January 17, 2015 by Jonathan Hemus

Five years ago Eurostar was heavily criticised for its crisis management response to severe snow over the Christmas period. One of the key allegations was ineffective communication with passengers (and especially social media) due to inadequate crisis management planning.

Today it is giving a masterclass in how to interact with customers and other stakeholders under intense pressure.  Services were suspended just after 11.25am on Saturday 17 January when smoke was detected in the Channel Tunnel.

Minutes later the Eurostar Twitter feed began communicating information, both general messages and direct interaction with individual passengers. At the same time, information was posted to the homepage of its website.

eurostar-social- media-crisis-management

Here are the key factors that are making their crisis communication response so effective:

Speed – Eurostar has been quick to fill the information vacuum ensuring that stakeholders are well informed and that it shapes the narrative of the story

Volume – Eurostar clearly understands that the principle of issuing one statement per day belongs to the stone age: as soon as new information emerges, it updates its position

Engagement – rather than simply broadcasting information at people, Eurostar is communicating personally with them, an approach which will surely resonate with its customers

Tone of voice – too many big businesses speak like a man in a three piece suit; Eurostar uses clear, simple, human language and achieves greater empathy as a result

Eurostar’s successful use of social media in a crisis has not happened by accident. It is the result of thorough crisis management training and planning, investment in people and technology so it can mount such a rapid response. It also illustrates that all too rare quality, the ability to learn from historical mistakes. It is an example which other businesses would do well to follow.

Update Monday 19 January

Eurostar continues to receive plaudits from passengers and other stakeholders for the way in which it has used online media to communicate during the service disruption. It has, however, attracted some criticism for the unavailability of customer helplines outside of office hours.

This underlines two critical points for crisis management planning:

Accessibility: the importance of ensuring that stakeholders are able to access information via multiple channels – not everyone uses social media

Availability: ensuring that crisis communication channels are available 24/7/365 – in my experience, crises always seem to happen at the weekend, overnight or during a public holiday and your crisis communication infrastructure must reflect this

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