Qantas Reverts to Caveman Social Media Strategy

by PR Coach on April 16, 2013

Qantas cuts Twitter news account

Qantas cuts Twitter news account

News today from down under that Qantas Airways is closing its Twitter PR account.

What are they thinking?

This is like going back to the media relations days of the caveman.

Australian marketing magazine mUmBrella reports Qantas will shutter its Twitter news account on April 19th. It expects it’s online newsroom to deliver the news.

Meanwhile, its Twitter marketing account will continue to pump out important “news” on new uniforms, youth contests, executive lounge upgrades and airline seat sales.

All fine marketing material but useless in an emergency.

The problem is, in a crisis, an online newsroom can’t respond fast enough to breaking news. Crisis managers know how important it is to use all channels, including Twitter, to be on the record and providing updates as soon as possible.

Otherwise, you run the risk of others defining your position for you and the crisis quickly gets out of your control.

Further, we know the difficulty of mixing marketing and news together from hurricane Sandy, the Tokyo earthquakes and countless other crises in the past.

What Will Qantas Do in a Crisis?

Qantas denied media reports about falling parts

Qantas denied its parts fell on village

Qantas has had its head buried firmly in the sand in the past such as when it responded poorly to reports of airline parts dropping from the skies. Even when confronted with photos of parts showing the Qantas logo.

The airline’s fractious relationship with media is no doubt part of this decision. But to put marketing in charge of social media news distribution is  a step backwards when social media has so much impact.

Qantas has shown before that it lacks understanding of social media. The airline received much scorn in 2011 for an ill-timed promotion and marketing campaign selling luxury trips during the height of acrimonious contract negotiations with employees.

Imagine this scenario.

There’s been a plane crash and employees, the media and the public are scrambling to get information about the incident, fatalities and the status of their loved ones on board.

Qantas Airways plane UAE flybyMeanwhile, marketing is brightly tweeting about luxury lounges, new Asian cuisine and selling flights to fun holiday destinations while news media and public clamor for information on the crisis.

Unplugging a PR Twitter channel just doesn’t make sense. Social media must remain a critical part of your crisis plan.

I hope this isn’t a trend because speed and transparency are critical in this era of always-on news, instant social media and citizen journalism. Witness recent coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Qantas is making a big mistake with this move and its past history of negative media relations is definitely not looking better for the future.

It’s a great lesson and reminder for other organizations. In a crisis, you can run but you can’t hide from either the mainstream media oor the social media.

What do you think? In this day and age, is an online newsroom enough? Do marketing and crisis communication ever mix? We welcome your comments and thoughts below.

If you’re looking for other crisis PR, bad PR or media relations tips, check into our virtual PR Library. We’ve got more than 8,000 curated links to tips, tactics and articles. And our @thePRCoach Twitter stream is always-on.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: Caveman ClubTwitter, Customer Think, Qantas