Why the Qantas media team needs you

HELP: Qantas is looking to its customers to help it out. Picture: GLENN HUNT
HELP: Qantas is looking to its customers to help it out. Picture: GLENN HUNT

COMPANIES no longer have the luxury of hours to deal with crises because there is a demand for instant updates when things go awry – so Qantas is looking to its customers to help it out.

Social media “angels” within the company and customers waiting in airport lounges could be the future of media for Qantas, said the airline’s high-profile brand, marketing and corporate affairs executive, Olivia Wirth.

She said the QF32 incident in 2010, when a Qantas jet narrowly avoided crashing after mechanical failures, changed the way the airline thinks about media.

“We first found out about the QF32 incident when our share price fell and news of the incident had gone nuts on Twitter,” Ms Wirth told the BOSS Emerging Leaders program event in Sydney on Thursday night. “Not a good way to find out about a disaster.”

News of the incident spread across social media before a press conference or media statement could be initiated. 

“Our initial approach is to try to manage and control 35,000 employees and we recognised we didn’t have enough the right processes,” Ms Wirth said. “We walked away knowing what we did was wrong and decided to take a different approach.”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the company had missed the “whole social media end of communication” during the QF32 incident.

Ms Wirth has a marketing team that is dedicated to managing social media content that engages in conversations with users on various platforms – and the broader Qantas workforce can also be involved.

“We have a group of people who love social media who we call the young Qantas Angels,” Ms Wirth said. “There are about 250 of them. They have gone through social media training. If there is a crisis and we need more people on social media, we bring them in and they join the room with our social media team.”

Citizen journalists are also being asked to play a role.

“Getting a story out is usually done through relationships with journalists and this is getting more difficult because there are fewer journalists, fewer specialists,” Ms Wirth said.


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