Tragically, on Sunday, February 26, VIA Rail’s train number 92 derailed in Ontario, killing three of its crew members and injuring many passengers. You can read VIA Rail’s press release for the details.
This was certainly a crisis situation and VIA Rail responded. How they responded and whether or not the communication was effective or timely has all been up for debate.
Regardless, there’s always PR impact in these types of crisis situations. Immediately following the accident, the public turned to Twitter and other media outlets to find out what happened. They wanted answers. What went wrong? How did this happen? How many people were affected? What will happen to other scheduled trains?
The VIA Rail communications team did a lot of things right. Seemingly, they tried to get the facts before engaging in social media. Here are some highlights of what VIA Rail did following the initial crisis:
- Identified the deceased and notified their families
- Made sure all survivors from the scene were properly cared for
- Made sure everyone on their team used clear and consistent messages when “speaking” publically
- Issued a press release once they had the facts
- Answered all questions and concerns from the public on social media sites after the communications plan was aligned
- Even went as far as answering each individual’s concern or question
- Set up a special toll-free number for anyone seeking information about passengers
- Made alternative plans to accommodate already-scheduled trips
With every crisis there is something to be learned and there’s always room for improvement in case of another potential crisis. Here are a few of our suggestions:
- Although all traditional media were part of the communication crisis strategy, social media needs to be more than an after-thought.
- With social media being a massive source for people to get their news, there needs to be a “voice of authority” present as soon as possible – even if the message is “we don’t have answers yet, but we’re working to get them.”
What would you add to this list?