Crisis Management: Social Media Took Down A Bank

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Social media took down a bank on Wednesday. Most of you felt it. We have seen this before. One message out to the world and panic withdrawals send a lender spiralling out of control. All within 24 hours. So what do we get wrong? What can be controlled and what cannot.

risk management

Social media as we have seen recently does a lot of great things. Activists use it. Heck even the government knows that this is the fastest way to get word out to its citizens. We have seen outrage of lions being shot dead by rangers sworn to protect them, we have seen information on corruption scandals being leaked into the public domain. But is there something like too much information? Too much freedom in the social media space.

There are different answers to this question depending on who you ask.

The government for instance. We have had cases where the interior ministry has deemed information shared in the public space as too sensitive for the masses. We have seen bloggers and newsmen arrested and grilled on information shared on social media that was in the public domain.

The news media practitioners don’t think so however. Their work is to inform. Not sieve the information on what is appropriate and what is not. They see the government that enjoys the benefits of social media with its PR charm offensive denying others the freedom to express themselves as they should. This gagging of the media space has elicited a lot of outrage.

So in this age where everything that is written online is believable, do users of social media have an obligation to make sure what they post online is accurate and beneficial to all concerned? The moral dilemma is out there. It is hard to control how social media is used by every citizen. We can try create laws around it. We can even switch off the internet as was the case in the Ugandan election and during the Arab spring. But social media is a tool. A tool that can be used to do good or bad.

You can kill or destroy a tool. A vessel. But you cannot destroy an idea.

So are we sitting ducks waiting for the wrath of people
online to react and shine a light into the going on of our businesses, our families or even our own transgressions?

Businesses world-wide have risk departments that should be able to handle such reputational risk when it arises. The only problem, Kenyan firms only focus on financial risk. Internal auditors who only focus on financial wellbeing of the company. The Chase bank debacle should be a wakeup call to all Kenyan firms operating in the Kenyan space.

Reputational Risk and Crisis management should be a key role in Risk departments in all firms.

Was the Chase Crisis management handled well? Not at all. Everyone knew that there was something going on. There was a lot of denial from the management. And piece by piece, they created the blocks that led to their imminent downfall.
The first rule of Crisis Management is, speak the truth and put all your chips on the table for your customers to see. Be honest.

We all remember the now famous words of a former US President. “I did not have any relations with that woman.” We all know how that turned out in the end. You would not want to lie to the public and especially to the internet because, the internet does not forget.

Reputational risk does not always have to be true. All that social media says or shows only creates a perception. And this perception is all that is needed for the chips to fall down.

On Wednesday Social Media took down a bank. And that sends a message to the entire business community. Set up your Reputational Risk, Social Media Risk, crisis management Policies in place. Because when the internet is done here, you could be next.

Willys Nyakeri – Risk Consultant

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