Archive for the ‘wikis’ Category
A Toronto company named EasyDNS has become a potent case study of two things: crisis communications and the limitations of journalism in the Internet age.
EasyDNS provides domain name servers for clients all over the place and is also a domain registrar. Until early December, there wasn’t much reason for an average person to know much about them.
But that was before a misunderstanding catapulted them into the middle of the largest news story of 2010. Someone, somewhere, confused EasyDNS in Toronto with EveryDNS in New Hampshire. EveryDNS had terminated its servicing of Wikileaks. This ticked off the supporters of Wikileaks, and when someone mistakenly identified EasyDNS as the villain, things went wrong.
Valleywag was the first major site to make the mistake, posting “Wikileaks loses its domain” on December 3rd. Within two hours of finding the Valleywag post, EasyDNS has gotten the post corrected and put up a blog post of their own explaining the situation. After that, the Financial Times(registration required) the New York Times “The Lede” blog, the Associated Press, and The Guardian all — independently — ran stories perpetuating the idea that a company who until now had no dealings with Wikileaks had struck the organization a blow.
And in the meantime, EasyDNS’s team, led by CEO Mark Jeftovic (left), who seems a savvy and smart guy, were eliciting corrections and trying to keep their site and blog up to provide correct information. Aaaaannd… they were approached by Wikileaks to be one of several companies providing DNS services. By December 6, EasyDNS was providing service to Wikileaks.
You can read the full timeline in quite some detail in Timeline of an Epic Fail, the company’s blog post trying to compile all of this information. I’m more interested in teasing out some of the implications.
First: you are always at risk. I’m sure that if Mark Jeftovic at EasyDNS had someone tell him in November that his company would be misidentified as a “villain” in the biggest story of 2010, he’d have chuckled (or “chunkled”, as he writes in his timeline). But he was. One of my rules for crisis communication and response is that even things that are HIGHLY unlikely sometimes happen.
Second: as an organization, you need to be flexible enough to devote ALL your resources to resolving organizational crisis. At one workplace a few years ago, my team and I were running flat-out on a crisis that threatened customer service standards, financial damage, and public embarrassment. A few office doors away, I don’t think the response would have been “Crisis? Is this a crisis?” You need to have your whole organization be aware that a crisis state exists (not necessarily an EMERGENCY) and that action has to be quick, decisive and significant.
Second-and-a-half: Just because you’re totally focused on the crisis, don’t forget you have other business. EasyDNS was sending out e-mails to its customers as well as updating its own blog, as well as keeping feedback channels open on e-mail, twitter, and phone. They seem to have done a good job of keeping their existing customers informed and addressing their concerns.
Third: Be politely persistent with media who get something wrong. It’s shocking and disappointing that EasyDNS were badly served five separate times by media both blog-based and mainstream. It’s certainly made them more cynical about the quality of journalism. Who can blame them? But they did things right. What’s also interesting is that some media noted the error, while others simply corrected it in their online versions.
Fourth: Don’t be shy. EasyDNS was tireless in chasing down rumours and being proactive. Particularly if you’re “in the right” as they were, don’t just hope for things to “blow over”, be quiet, and wait for eyes to pass you over. You’re already part of the story. You might as well be a FULL part of it. I don’t know how “human” the company’s voice was before this, but their tweets, blog posts, and e-mails had a great voice, correcting errors and portraying emotion without coming off like ranters or bullies.
Fifth: recognize that in crisis lies opportunity. Jeftovic was already thinking this way when he wrote his blog post OK, so would we take on Wikileaks at this point? Now is there business benefit to EasyDNS actually doing this? Probably not directly. But my impression of EasyDNS has gone from zero — until yesterday when Jeftovic appeared on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” (you can listen to an interview with Jeftovic there) I’d never heard of ‘em — to “this is a company that has its act together and has some principles.” That can’t be bad.
Are there other lessons to be learned from this incident? You tell me. And attention Craig Silverman! There’s likely a whole chapter of “Regret the Error Volume 2″ in this story.
One of the things I talked about was learning from others, and building on their ideas. In folk music, that’s “the folk tradition.” But given that you can’t copyright an idea or a concept, there’s no reason that businesses embarking on a social media initiative — or any sort of communications, for that matter — shouldn’t learn from others.
And case studies can be a powerful way of doing just that. Conveniently enough, there are good people who are compiling lists of case studies online. Some of these lists are in wiki form, so you can easily add your own; others are more conventional sites. Either way, use them. Why not save yourself making the same mistakes others made, and find brand new mistakes to make! As Samuel Beckett so famously put it: No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Here are some places to find useful case studies in social media:
Penn Olson’s 30 social media case studies
Peter Kim’s list of over 1000 social media “examples” (the inspiration for Web 2.0 examples in Canada)
UPDATE: If you prefer your case studies in the live and in person format, and you’re in Ottawa, you should check out Case Study Jam, a little meetup that I’ve been helping to organize with a cast of ones, including Joe Boughner, Amy Boughner, Melanie Bechard, Della Siemens, and Nick Charney. You can get a sense of what a CSJ is like from Robin Browne’s handy-dandy audio playlist!
And one more thing to think about: If you have an example of how your company or a client did something interesting, why not write something up about it and submit it to one of these lists? Sharing is caring.
Photo credit: The Cake Engineer on Flickr, licenced via Creative Commons
Here’s a drawing that Cody V made demonstrating that he — quite responsibly — isn’t ready to get on his bike without a helmet on his head.