Taking a look at the collapse of Chase Bank Kenya in early April offers information to those wanting to learn about PR crisis management in social media. A team of people at Odipo Dev used their Dive Analytics tool to study what happened on Twitter preceding the fall of a bank who served their community for 20 years. Here’s what they found.
In the first three days, the number of tweets was not high, but all mentioned problems with the bank at some level, though many were jovial rather than worried. The banks (Chase Bank Kenya, Chase Bank, and the Central Bank) made no response or comment. By the fourth day, the number of tweets rose to more than 2000 and stayed between the 2000 and 3000 mark for the next several days.
In all, Chase Bank Kenya made exactly two comments, and both were in direct response to questions posed to them. The second, almost mirroring the first, said, “Kindly ignore the statements making rounds on social media, as per CBK guidelines, your money is safe with us. ^CK.”
Of course, Twitter isn’t the place they should have been doing their real responding since the format is only 140 characters. But they should have gotten word out somewhere. The first rules of crisis management are respond quickly and offer transparency. CBK offered nothing. Their few short responses did not assure those with growing concerns. And it became apparent they were not offering information because the rumors were not false after all.
During that week or so, there were 7,874 plain tweets (no links or photos), and those were shared six times more often on average than the 979 tweets with photos and three times more often than the 4,871 tweets with links. Tweets with fear or concern were retweeted twice as much as those from a neutral or positive perspective. Proving fear is food for mass hysteria.
By April 6, just four days into the problem, Chase Bank trended on Twitter. By this point, fear had strongly set in with their customers. Though the public wanted to believe the problem was not real, the account holders began withdrawing funds. Early during the afternoon of the 6th, Chase Bank finally made an official statement, but there was no transparency, it was barely more than the couple of Twitter replies made previously.
Most people know when someone is shining them on, and with that statement, even more of the customers began lining up to get their money. About an hour and a half after the first official statement came the second. By this point, revised audit reports showed the truth – the bank was in trouble and had been covering it up for some time. The newest statement still did not address the problem, just told everyone the Chairman of the Board and the Managing Director were no longer working with the bank. The bank lines swelled and by the end of the day, there was no money left in the branches. The next morning the bank was officially closed under a 12-month receivership.
It has been reopened since under the guidance of the Central Bank, but even though the facts were true in this case, proper PR could have helped reach a better and more stable outcome. When there’s a problem, fess up! Give the details, present a plan, and begin working toward resolution. Don’t leave people imagining the worst. The longer it is before you respond and share details, the more work and time it will take to fix the problem and get back to normal. Don’t hide away from the issues, face them and show the strength of leadership being offered to clients and customers moving forward.