Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Another one bites the dust - Bloc Weekend 2012

Since my last post, I have been told about another total communications disaster ... but this time it wasn’t anything to do with G4S. In fact it was the electronic festival “Bloc Weekend” (July 2012) who had to close their festival down during the event amid fears of overcrowding. The event organisers brought in the police to aid them to ‘eject’ thousands of festival goers and faced a vicious backlash across all social media sites.

However, whilst the company was frantically trying to deal with the chaos unfolding they forgot to communicate with their customers. Specifically, when they took the decision to eject people from the venue, they forgot that they had authorised a number of “pre-set” automatic tweets to be sent from their twitter account, @BLOCWKND. Whilst festival goers were slamming the festival’s ineptitude and complaining profusely about the manner in which they had been thrown out of the festival, @BLOCWKND was telling them that the next artist was coming up and posting “here’s one I took earlier” photos.

Unfortunately, the use of programmes that send out pre-set automatic updates is used all too frequently by companies and their self-titled “social media experts”.  Now, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with using automatic update programmes, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Tweetadder, but ... and this is a massive BUT, you have to understand that social media networks are all about being socially interactive and reactive. An automated system will never be able to do this for you; it all requires a human element. By making the mistake of not managing this process, @BLOCWKND found themselves further angering their customers as they continued to tweet inaccurately. What is more, when they did realise what had happened they went silent for some time.

Finally they sent out a status saying:

“By now everyone will have heard that Bloc 2012 was closed due to crowd safety concerns. We are all absolutely devastated that this happened, but the safety of everyone on site was paramount. Given the situation on the ground, we feel that it was the right decision to end the show early. Bloc will not open on Saturday 7th July so please don’t come to the site. Stand by for full information on refunds.”

Now I may be being silly but for the life of me I cannot find an apology in that status. I can’t even find the classic “we are sorry for any inconvenience caused”. Interestingly, Base Logic Promotions Ltd (the company name behind Bloc Weekend) quickly went into voluntary administration following the fiasco meaning that attendees of the festival will struggle to retrieve any refunds. I am not implying in any way that a better communication strategy would have saved the company from administration or from their overcrowding issues, however, I think they owed it to their disappointed customers.

My real point in this blog is that we have to be careful with our social media tools. It is all very well finding tools that help us, as companies or even individuals, to make the most out of social networking. However, we must not forget that these processes have to be managed properly if we choose to use them. Our customers, friends, circles and followers demand that we interact with them freely, openly and honestly, this was an unfortunate example of the exact opposite.

This says it all ...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Honesty really is the best policy!

What is it exactly about bad communication that makes a situation/issue/challenge ten times worse?

We have all sat on a train station platform or airport when the LCD screens flash to tell you that your train/plane is delayed by 20 minutes. Doesn’t seem too bad, right? But following this, every 5 minutes, the delay seems to increase and before you know it you have been waiting for 90 minutes with only a mechanical voice “apologising for the inconvenience”. I don’t know about you but this reoccurring situation infuriates me. I can’t understand why people aren’t more upfront and honest about issues. I would much rather be given the most correct and up-to-date information at the time to be able to make my own decision as to how I will proceed. There is nothing worse than sitting on a train station platform and realising that you could have gone out to the pub for 40 minutes whilst you were waiting.

An interesting situation to assess right now is that of G4S, Olympic security provider, who have been plagued with problem after problem in recent days relating to the under-staffing of security posts for the impending Olympics. Currently there is a lot of scaremongering in the press about the lack of trained security personnel that were meant to be provided as part of the 10,000 person contract and 3,500 Army personnel, due to go on leave, have been brought in at the last minute. Anyone following this story will see that the obvious mistakes made plus the media furore and high profile “dress downs” have turned G4S and the security aspect of the Olympics into an absolute shambles.

3,500 soldiers are drafted in to plug the
security personnel gap at the Olympics. 
At this point in time, we can only allege as to where the communication break downs have happened. Boris Johnson seems to think that Government were aware of the staffing issues a few months ago, whereas Theresa May insists she only found out 9 days ago. It is interesting to note that many reporters have failed to alert readers to the fact that the initial G4S contract was based on the employment of only 2000 security personnel, not the 10,000 that it increased to in January of this year. So where exactly does the blame lie for this complete and utter breakdown in communication?

Over the coming weeks, as more information surfaces about the mistakes that have been made and the real situation behind the hype starts to appear, I would like to have a look at ways in which the situation could have been handled more effectively by G4S and Government. Please do feel free to add your own comments and thoughts.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Times are changing ...

Firstly I want to apologise for not writing a blog post for four weeks! It has been a month of highs, lows and significant change. I made a decision to follow Paul to London, leaving my Cheltenham life, job and friends behind, and have consequently been submerged in the chaos of moving, going to Hideout festival in Croatia (yes, I can feel your sympathy flowing!) and starting a new job.

Over the last few weeks I have experienced immense turmoil at the thought of leaving friends, even though it has been sprinkled with elation at the prospect of reacquainting myself with old friends and making new ones. However, the thing that has become most clear to me is the importance of the relationships you form with people throughout your lifetime and the potential impact that these interactions can have.

If I mentioned Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Marie Curie, what would you say that had in common? Well, apart from being famous enough that you know who they are, these people have had a significant impact on the lives of others. Some of them used the power of rhetoric to inspire and others used their actions to have a profound impact.

However, these are people that we may not feel have directly impacted on our own lives. Often it is the unsung heroes; parents, teachers, friends, partners and groups of like-minded individuals that leave the most lasting impressions. These people may never have their name in shining lights, or remain imprinted in the minds of millions across the world but nonetheless they often deeply influence our lives, the experiences we have and the people that we become.

In Cheltenham, I encountered a number of individuals who have really managed to touch upon my life and I hope that in my last few weeks I was able to articulate to them the impact that they have had. This blog post was really about reiterating my thanks to all of you who have been part of my Cheltenham life and all of you that have made me who I am today (you can all share in the blame :P).

Sometimes it is important to think about the positive impact that you can have on those around you.

Jackie Robinson once said: “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on others”

I don’t think you need to be famous or well-known to have an impact, we just need to be aware of the experience, advice and support we can give to others. If life is measured by the impact we have on others, I would say that I must be surrounded by many people whose lives are pretty darn important!