December 20, 2009 / by James Whatley">James Whatley / Case Studies, Social Media / 15 Comments

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

While it’s easy to give We Are Social (WAS) a right good pasting over their handling of the Eurostar debacle over the weekend – let’s put things into perspective.

For starters: less than 24hrs after the whole thing started playing out, there was a video response from the Eurostar CEO himself, Richard Brown. This is not something to be sniffed at kids.

A video apology, delivered via YouTube, to the LittleBreak website in the form of a blog post. In this day, that is a feat in itself.

How many other CEOs of train operators could you name who would consider doing that (outside of a BBC interview)?  Seriously?

Please do not think for one second that I’m making light of all those people trapped on the train/in the tunnel/in folkestone for God knows how many hours – I’m not.

But look at it like this – if the CEO had put that video up within, say four hours of the incident taking place, how easy would it have been to cry:

“OMG! What is he doing wasting time posting on a blog? He should be out there dedicating his time to getting those people out!”

WAS were originally (I assume), hired to create sales and conversation around ‘little breaks’ – facilitated, naturally, by Eurostar. Note: This would mean working with Eurostar’s Marketing and PR team, not their Customer Care dept. Whether or not the addition of a reactive care stream to We Are Social’s (now ongoing?) brief is the mark of a bad agency remains to be seen.

What isn’t necessary – in my opinion at least – is playing the blame game when it comes to addressing ‘twitter concerns’.

Remember – this happened on a Friday night and played out over the midnight hours. Come Saturday morning, the problem was still going on. I know I (at least try to) take weekends off sometimes, I’m pretty sure others do too. But, when the call came in, the WAS guys got themselves over to Eurostar HQ pronto and were camped out there from midday onwards.

By the end of play, they had that video up.

If care was part of the package then someone SHOULD have been online.
It wasn’t, so there wasn’t.

The end.

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15 comments on “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

  1. Hey James

    Thanks for you support on this. I wrote a post last night detailing the situation from We Are Social’s perspective:
    http://wearesocial.net/blog/2009/12/note-todays-eurostar-crisis/

    To save everyone clicking through, what we did over the weekend was totally outside of the brief we were originally working to. We did recommend a listening and responding programme to Eurostar on several occasions, but at no point did they commission us to do this, so this weekend was all about helping out where we could.

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  2. Rahere says:

    I disagree. The foul-ups were a repeat of what happened on 11 September 2008, during the fire. They learned nothing from that, they were not prepared to learn anything, and their arrogance is being rewarded. They threatened us with attack dogs at Brussels at 0530 12.9.08. So sorry, nice spin, but no prizes.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    Hey Rahere,

    Which part are you disagreeing with?

    Cheers,
    James

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  3. Utku says:

    I think you’re spot on. We Are Social were responsible for running a campaign – not crisis management – and went beyond the call of duty to help out their client. That should be applauded, not lambasted.

    Were Eurostar at fault? Most probably. But making We Are Social the scapegoat for that is like blaming your hairdresser for having a heart attack.

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  4. Gemma Went says:

    Rahere, my take on this is that James isn’t ‘spinning’ anything as far as Eurostar is concerned. He wasn’t questioning their part in this, which is at best negligent. This is about the We Are Social finger pointing, which is unfair as they weren’t commissioned by Eurostar to handle crisis management (again, wrong move by Eurostar).

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  5. I didn’t like the way people just jumped in and starting attacking them but the problem with social media is that anybody can sit on the sidelines and by using twitter alone be some sort of customer care strategy expert. Good to see a rational balanced view here from somebody who knows the business and what is involved rather than people sitting on the sidelines just calling WAS useless pricks which is just a waste of time and doesn’t get any solution. Fact is WAS were used for a small amount of marketing and not customer service as you say and if anything I’d expect them to be engaged on a bigger retainer from now on to look after customer service as well!

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  6. Yes! Sanity prevails! Why the hell We Are Social should be expected to provide a service they weren’t contracted to do I’ve no idea. The good thing its that this has taught Eurostar that they can’t ignore this stuff.

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  7. Danny Whatmough says:

    Good post James. I agree with you in terms of WAS. As Robin’s post shows, there is only so much advice an agency can give, if the client doesn’t listen then what can you do? The blame at the end of the day has to lie firmly with the brand. After all, it’s their reputation on the line.

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  8. Chris Reed says:

    Totally agree that It’s inappropriate for any commentators to criticise an agency who are doing one thing for a client, for NOT doing something else, which they’ve never been asked to do.

    I’m just sorry for Eurostar’s sake that it’s only during and after this crisis that social media features in their crisis comms plans. Having said that though, in so doing, they’ll pave the way for many other organisations to dust down their own crisis planning docs and consider how best to use social media within them…

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  9. Let’s not forget that earlier on this year Eurostar services were the only ones that WERE running. And it’s a good thing the trains cut out on the ground, unlike the air travel services which are equally affected by the weather! I know for a fact that they’ve already started modifications on the Eurostar shields and are due to resume service as soon as today or tomorrow.

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  10. Siany says:

    FINALLY someone talking some sense. Eurostar could probably have played this better, but We Are Social are not in the wrong, in fact they’ve done an awesome job in communicating on their behalf.

    [Reply]

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