HootSuite Forgets Compassion in Hack Crisis Management

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    Forgetting this key ingredient can sink your crisis communications efforts

    Heavy social media users probably noticed the recent HootSuite outage which left many, including us, unable to access the popular utility during the evening hours. Having any service you use regularly to do business go down is a big deal, and even more so considering HootSuite is used by not only individuals, but also a massive number of organizations which rely on it as a platform for marketing, reputation management, stakeholder communications and more.

    Of course these days when the service has your name, credit card, and other personal information stored, when we see an outage we get a bit nervous about some nefarious net activity. To its credit, HootSuite expected this fear, and explained exactly what had gone down in an email sent to customers:

    As you may have noticed this morning, HootSuite services experienced downtime, which might have impacted you or your organization. At approximately 6:45 am PST we experienced what’s known as a denial of service attack (DoS). I’m writing today to let you know that the HootSuite Engineering and Security teams are working to mitigate the DoS attack and that there are no inherent security risks to your accounts, nor has any customer data been compromised.

    It’s important that we keep you up to date on the status of the tools and services we provide to you as a valuable customer. This interruption was the result of a malicious attempt by an outside party to flood our services in order to shut-down the system. This primarily affected web traffic to the dashboard and mobile APIs, and did not impact previously scheduled posts. We are working with hosting providers to identify the source and block this traffic.

    We will keep the HootSuite blog updated with current information.

    For real time updates or support, please follow or tweet us on our dedicated Twitter support channel @hootsuite_help and see additional resources below. Lastly, I want to thank you for your patience and for your continued trust in HootSuite. Your success is our highest goal.

    Best regards,

    Ryan Holmes,
    HootSuite CEO

    Additional Resources

    Today’s blog post on the outage
    The HootSuite system status page for latest updates
    HootSuite’s Managed Services for Security & Compliance
    HootSuite’s dedicated Twitter support channel @HootSuite_Help

    Pretty solid, with an explanation of the situation, plenty of links to further information, assurances that all data was secured, and even more reassurance that the issue is being resolved. However, HootSuite’s CEO forgot one invaluable ingredient when it comes to delivering crisis communications your stakeholders will take to heart – compassion. One more sentence acknowledging the fact that the folks at HootSuite understand how nervous or frustrated the attack may have left customers feeling would have made the mass email that much more effective, and better supported the good reputation of the social media platform in the process.

    Compassion, competence, and credibility. Include all three in your crisis communications, or you risk having your messaging fall on deaf ears.

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

    [Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]