Twitter or the Web?

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    How will you communicate in a crisis?

    At around 7 a.m. Friday, Bank of America Corp. experienced a partial outage of its online banking service. The Charlotte, N.C., bank used Twitter to get the word out, but it did not announce the outage on its home page. Impacted consumers simply got an error message.

    “It is helpful if the bank sees [social media] as a part of their other communication channels,” which should also include branches, call centers, the Web and mobile, said Stessa Cohen, research director for banking industry advisory services at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

    “It is part of a holistic plan to deal with operational risk events,” she said.

    Over Twitter, B of A broadcast this message: “Online Banking Outage: Bank of America is working to restore capability as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

    This quote, from a Bank Investment Consultant magazine article, describes a crisis communications mistake that may have been spurred on by too much focus on new technologies. Announcing service problems over Twitter was undoubtedly a smart move, but there is no excuse for not posting an announcement on the main Bank of America Web portal as well. After users saw the tweet, the logical next step would be to check the company’s page for more info, and, although Twitter’s popularity is enormous, every business still has a large number of customers that do not make use of the service that must be catered to.

    Whenever you’re trying to communicate, it pays to use all of the possible channels. That way, everyone gets the message.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]