These last few days have been so disturbing for me and the Fathers of children in secondary School; day or boarding it really doesn’t matter, a young boy lost His life days after alleged bullying and torture by senior students and colleagues.
More worrying is the fact that the School’s handling of the matter as reported in the media has brought more fume and anger from the general populace.
First, then the news broke the School release said he was playing football, Secondly, it filtered out in Media that the School allowed culprits to escape, finally when the social media outcry was too much, the Lagos state government shut down the School, and guess what the School sent an email that they will continue school online. All this shows no empathy on the side of the School in handling this matter and almost says that “money is king, even if a life is lost”. The aforementioned bad perception might not be what the School was intending to have, but their actions which show a fundamental core value in the organization have sold them out.
Unfortunately, they tried handling crises in the “Nigerian way”, which is a lie about issues, dilute the messages in Social Media, suppress media with paid stories around Nigeria, and Twist the story in our favor. I have seen this scenario happen over and over in our work with Top CEO in Nigeria. You get a call on a crisis by a brand and you are asked to meet the CEO. The conversation with the CEO and team goes thus.
CEO: “Temi thank you for coming to this meeting”
TEMI: My pleasure sir”
CEO: “You heard what happened to us already ?”
TEMI: “ Yes sir, but did you do it? knowing the answer to this will help us know the best way to handle this”
CEO: ‘’ Your work is not to ask us whether we did it or not, we brought you here to clean up the web and make sure that our positive news has a top mention in media burying the negativity of this crisis, okay!”
Temi: ” sir, global best practice on issues/ crises like this is to be open, honest, and transparent about this issue, regret what has happened, share your resolve to do better, bear the consequence of your mistake now and build a strong brand that will last you for generations to come. Covering up or pushing the issue aside will keep hunting the brand at every turn, someone years down the line with the old un-resolved issue will always use it against your brand, but if you do the right thing now, you don’t have to worry about someone blackmailing you with the story. Because it has been resolved, your loyal followers will on your behalf drag the blackmailer to filth, pointing them to the news where this was resolved/ closed, giving your brand a better name and more loyal customers”.
CEO: “ Dear team members I thought you said Temi can do the work, please get me A PR agency that understands how to do this work in the way I described( Nigerian way) earlier for me, Temi certainly doesn’t understand what we need. Job lost
4 years down the line the MD keeps paying blackmailers to keep the story off the web, with many customers already aware of the story and thousands paid to SPINNER AGENCIES IN Nigeria to do the JOB.
Notice that after the Dowen Issue David Hundeyin called out another school with an issue where a young lady was raped on the premises of a school and died of Sepsis.
Guess what, he also called out the PR agency engaged to dilute the story and manage it in the “Nigerian way”. After Millions have been spending on the dilution, noise-making with positive news in media, the story is back out in the media because no resolution was done on the matter, it was swept under the carpet and now the carpet has been moved.
Our focus today is not on what was done in the wrong way but if faced with a crises issue in your own area of business how do you handle it.
Below are crises risk analysis sources, it is impossible to perfectly cover all areas but the best is to prepare because in your own area too, crises is in-evitable.
It is very easy for many to point-fingers at these brands judging them for poor Crisis management, the truth is 80% of Nigerian brands will perform worse in managing online Crises if faced with the same situation. This is what I have found out, working in Online Crisis/Reputation management for leading brands in Nigeria over the last 10 years, moreover, many brand custodians cannot comfortably say all the risk issues in an Attached image have been fully covered by your brand.
The Challenge is this; the average Nigerian Executive while they can put a financial value on others things, finds it difficult to put a financial value on their “Brand”. The aforementioned makes it difficult to project the financial impact of a Crisis on their brand, and because of this many take positions in Crisis that do not favor the “Brand”
Secondly, the average Nigerian team member is more loyal to his/her superior and top management before the brand, hence when there is a Crisis many will rather protect the bosses and management, while the name of the brand gets dragged in the mud and loses value.
I believe if we are able to put a financial value on our “Brand” and know the financial impact of the Crisis on our brand, we will all be able to treat our brands better.
If Dowen had sent away the Children of the “ high and mighty” troubling the school or stood on the path of justice against the “ powerful children” by handing them to the authorities and seeing to it that justice is served, they may lose revenue from 50 students or more and have it rough with the parents but they will have built a trusted brand, which will help the school through the difficult times like this, and most likely they might be forgiven for the initial mistake of not monitoring the children well.
They will have kept their investments in the School save by doing this but the “ Nigerian way” was used and now we all know what the result is, not sure re-opening the school will happen anytime soon because of the anger around the #endsars issue and the allegations around it is being used to fight for justice for the young man this time.
In time past, it was quite easy to “SPIN” your Crisis by spending a huge amount of money on media to push your narratives, in this day and digital age you need to collaborate with your audience to get the desired results for your brand. The best you can achieve with using the traditional “Nigerian way” of Crisis management, is to suppress the people’s voice, but doing that your genuine loyalist who voiced out their concerns about your current issues will only just look for another brand with better Values.
To effectively manage online Crisis in social media you need to “Put the people first”, you also need to engage external help to look at communications and plans so you can speak in the language of the customer, creating the right perceptions and achieving your desired brand goal.
A single Crisis can disrupt all your brand plans for the year, don’t take chances, Planning for an online Crisis is like insurance, it is better you have it and not need to use it, than not have it and you need it.
Few points on what not-to-do in online Crisis
1) Don’t miss your golden hour, respond appropriately in the 1st hour of Crisis to dowse tension (This time makes or breaks your brand)
2) Don’t assume you have done it before; every Crisis is different, a deep consumer conversation online data analysis on the issue is needed before you decide the approach to take
3) Don’t speculate, lie or try to cover up, you will be caught and the public will come for you.
4) Don’t be silent or try ducking the issues, silence in Crisis is counted as guilt.
About the writer.
Sobowale Temiloluwa is a Kellogg Alumni, Brand, and Marketing analytics specialist. He has supported over 50% of the Banking brands in Nigeria in the area of online Crisis management, for over 10 years. You can reach him via email@example.com