How Not To Respond to a Social Media Crisis

Verizon vs. The Tennis Channel is the latest social media crisis that is being mishandled — and since I am directly impacted, here are some suggestions to both sides on how to handle the issue better.

It all started on Saturday night when The Tennis Channel pulled their signal from Verizon and Cablevision. On Verizon FiOS, the Tennis Channel was replaced with this graphic that does not say why the channel is no longer available or when the channel will be turned back on. The bad news is that the timing could not come at a worst time for tennis fans as we enter the second week of the US Open. While I can still receive tennis programming on CBS and ESPN, we have been enjoying the coverage on The Tennis Channel – especially the commentators and the wrap-up shows.

Since then, the Twittersphere and forum boards have been chastising Verizon about the issue:

According to an article in MultiChannel news, The issue between Verizon, Cablevision and The Tennis Channel relates to the following:

The parties remain in ongoing discussions after Tennis’ new contract with the National Cable Television Cooperative, calling for digital-basic carriage, went into effect on Sept. 4. Verizon, which had been part of NCTC’s old nine-year contract with Tennis for sports tier placement that expired on Sept. 3, elected not to opt into the new deal. In turn, Tennis pulled its signal from Verizon, which had been proffering the network on its Ultimate level of service. A Verizon spokesman said the company “did not choose to opt in to the NCTC agreement again after it expired. We are currently pursuing a separate carriage agreement with the Tennis Channel and talks are ongoing.”

The Tennis Blog in the New York Times had some additional details to add in their post on Saturday.

Social media crises are on the rise, but most companies are still ill-prepared for dealing with the best way to respond. In fact, Jeremiah Owyang of The Altimeter Group published a report on this subject last week titled “Social Media Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare”.

Social Media Crises on Rise - From Altimeter Group Report

Here are a couple of tips for Verizon, The Tennis Channel and other companies who are facing a social media crisis:

Plan Ahead

It appears that Verizon Support was not prepared for the shutdown and as of this morning, they have not addressed the issue in their Twitter stream nor have they responded to any of the irate customer rants. Somebody somewhere in the Verizon bureaucracy must have known that the agreement was going to expire and there must have been meetings about what was going to be done. Unfortunately for Verizon, this information does not appear to have been shared with people on the customer front line. The Altimeter report has other suggestions for planning ahead and establishing a process and team to address crises.

Don’t Let Things Simmer

Since this issue occurred on Saturday night of the 3-day Labor Day weekend, Verizon was not ready to immediately respond to inquiries or to address the issue. Verizon’s Twitter account went complete dark from 10am on Saturday morning until this morning at 6am. It is apparent that the longer you wait to address an issue, the harder it is to recover from a crisis. At a minimum, Verizon needs to start responding on Twitter and in forum discussions with a rational and direct explanation of the why, the what and the when.

Followup at 12:10pm on 9/6 – I just heard from the @fiostv Twitter account, and the executive on that channel was responding throughout the weekend as noted in the tweet below. However, none of these tweets were cross-referenced on the @verizon Twitter feed so I did not see them until after I wrote the post. In any case, it looks like the tweets were just acknowledging the situation without offering any new information.

FiOSTV: @TomHumbarger I wasn’t dark.. spent my holiday weekend on Twitter answering questions (I’m the exec that owns the FiOS TV product)11:28am, Sep 06 from TweetDeck

Be Proactive and Up Front

As a Verizon customer, I want an direct explanation from the source — how about posting an explanation on your website. Verizon did send me an email on Sunday morning, but it just announced that the Tennis Channel was removed from the FiOS lineup and they apologized for any inconvenience that it may have caused me. It is hard to tell which side is at fault in this dispute, but since I subscribe through Verizon I hold them to blame for the issue. But The Tennis Channel may be just as culpable, but without an explanation it is hard to hold them at fault.

As a tennis fan, I am hoping the dispute is resolved quickly and amicably so I can receive full tennis coverage from the Tennis Channel. As a social media fan, I am hoping other companies are paying attention to this issue and don’t repeat these same mistakes again.

2 thoughts on “How Not To Respond to a Social Media Crisis

  1. Followup at 12:10pm on 9/6 – I just heard from the @fiostv Twitter account, and the exec on that channel was responding throughout the weekend. But none of the tweets were cross-referenced on the @verizon Twitter feed.

    FiOSTV: @TomHumbarger I wasn’t dark.. spent my holiday weekend on Twitter answering questions (I’m the exec that owns the FiOS TV product)

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