Something from the sports world caught our eye recently and serves as a great example when using social media statements to mitigate a crisis.
The Miami Hurricanes have a proud tradition of winning ballgames and competing at the highest level. Sadly, for the program and their fans they have fallen on hard times. This twitter “statement” by Athletic Director Blake James came right after the teams embarrassing 35-3 loss to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. Talk about adding fuel to the Crisis Communications fire!
We get that James was trying to get out ahead of the negative reaction and wanted to empathize with the fans. The main issue? He said NOTHING about what he planned to do. The responses were predictable and pointed.
A HURRICANE OF REACTIONS AND REPLYS!
College football writer Dan Wolken began things in fine fashion managing to sum up the first part of the problem nicely. The statement just confused people. (Update: A few days later, the coach Mark Richt “resigned”. Rumors are he was under pressure to make staff changes and refused.)
The rest of the twitter comments are frankly, less polite and really illustrate what we advocate. Apology and empathy are fine, but every crisis communications response should have some “call to action”. WHAT YOU ARE GOING DO ABOUT THIS?
Initially, even something as simple as “we continuing to review the situation and will have more information in the next 24 hours” can work. James does say the ‘process is underway’ but that’s too vague and doesn’t give a time frame as to when there will be action. As you can see, Miami football fans are not shy with their opinions!
CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS 101
Clearly, the prevailing sentiment was about trust, or lack thereof, and that something needed to be DONE! Now, this may be an extreme example and sports fans are the loudest and most fervent of critics but they are also “customers” in a sense, consuming the Universities product.
Another issue, James’ twitter account added nothing else until New Years Eve, just after the new coach was hired. An update may have helped his PR cause.
Crisis Communications is all about proper messaging, disseminating important information, relaying a plan of action and yes, mitigating public backlash. It can (and often times should) begin on social media but those statements had better include some relevant information along with empathy. Otherwise you could find yourself in the midst of a public relations Hurricane.