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Communication principles in a crisis: Be transparent. Be informative. Be timely.

Sometimes, when things take an unexpected negative side-turn, the instinctive reaction may be not to say anything. In the age of digital, it’s more critical than ever to speak. Be transparent. Be informative. Be timely.

If you don’t speak, someone else will speak for you.

Yesterday, the JustMeans social site focused on corporate social responsibility went down. For any user going to the site, a large “server cannot be found” error page greeted you. The site was down for an extended period of time. (See the screen capture below.)

As the company is strongly rooted in digital, the absence of the website meant that the primary corporate presence and channel of communication with users was missing. In my personal bewilderment, I went on to check the next best thing: Twitter. JustMeans has a number of active twitter accounts – surely they would mention what had happened there.

Silence. All of the tweets were the regular CSR-related updates and interesting tidbits of what was happening around the world in the realm of CSR. However, not a single tweet mentioned or answered the critical question. Where did the website go? In the end, instead of hearing from JustMeans when I tweeted to the Twitterverse the question, I heard back within the hour from someone else. The JustMeans account had been suspended for spam and abuse…

Really? Something didn’t seem right here. In the meantime, the tweet and the explanatory site was getting picked up and passed around.

In the end, after almost twenty-four hours, the answer came back through Twitter in a direct mail. There had been a security breach to the server company, and the site had been taken down as a precaution. Sounds reasonable. I wrote back to say thank you – and failed. (The account was not following me, therefore all direct messages were blocked, which is a whole other conversation on social media communication.)

The good news story here is that not too much damage was done. I have always been a supporter of JustMeans and I still am. The tweets posted about the site being down were not in the hundreds, and now, the site is back up – almost without anyone noticing… but then again, perhaps people not noticing isn’t such a good thing?

Communication principles in a crisis: Be transparent. Be informative. Be timely.

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