Crisis Communications Done Right: Buffer App

When it comes to crisis communications, SHIFT advocates for a simple three step model:

SHIFT Crisis Communications Strategy

The model is simple: own the problem, share as much as you can, and get in front of the problem as fast as you can. Here’s an example of how to do it right, via social media posting service Buffer (disclosure: not a client).

On Saturday, October 26, Buffer was hacked by spammers who were able to post spam onto the social media profiles of 6% or so of its clients. Within an hour of the problem, Buffer founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne emailed, posted to social, and updated the Buffer blog to let its users know what was going on.

Buffer has been hacked - here is what's going on - - Gmail

In his email, Joel owns the problem, shares what’s going on, and does so quickly, despite it being a Saturday morning. Over the next 24 hours, Joel posted 8 blog posts and many more social media posts detailing what was going on, when users could expect service to be restored, and what steps their customers should take next.

Buffer security breach has been resolved – here is what you need to know

At the end of the event, Buffer recapped what had happened, how customers were affected, and how they fixed it to prevent future similar problems. They followed the three step crisis communications model perfectly – taking ownership of the problem, getting in front of the problem with as much speed as they could, and sharing knowledge liberally so that customers were not left guessing as to what was happening.

The last point is one of the most important in crisis communications from a strategic perspective. In the absence of information, customers tend to make up reasons for a brand’s failure that typically are significantly worse than what’s actually happening. By sharing frequently and being transparent about what was happening, customers didn’t need to guess what was going on behind the scenes at Buffer with their data.

In the end, the crisis may well have been an overall win for Buffer from a business growth perspective. In a quick scan of the comments on their blog, Buffer’s customers speak highly of their response:

Buffer security breach has been resolved – here is what you need to know

When a crisis helps to grow your business and cement the loyalty of your customers, you know you’ve handled it the right way. Congratulations to the Buffer team for handling a crisis so well!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


Posted on October 29, 2013 in Crisis Communications, Strategy

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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