Buffer, a social media pre-scheduling app, was hacked on Saturday afternoon. How do I know this? Because, as a Buffer user, I received one of the best crisis communications messages I had ever received (from a non-client, of course), directly in my inbox – before I even had the chance to discover the situation on my own.
I was so impressed with the level of sincerity, goodwill and proactive crisis communications that I wanted to share their message and their tactics with you here today.
Buffer’s crisis communications email
The first thing Buffer did was send out a direct email from the founder and CEO, Joel Gascoigne, to their many, many users. Instead of telling you how awesome this email was, I’ll let you see for yourself…
I wanted to get in touch to apologize for the awful experience we’ve caused many of you on your weekend. Buffer was hacked around 1 hour ago, and many of you may have experienced spam posts sent from you via Buffer. I can only understand how angry and disappointed you must be right now.
Not everyone who has signed up for Buffer has been affected, but you may want to check on your accounts. We’re working hard to fix this problem right now and we’re expecting to have everything back to normal shortly.
We’re posting continual updates on the Buffer Facebook page and the Buffer Twitter page to keep you in the loop on everything.
The best steps for you to take right now and important information for you:
- Remove any postings from your Facebook page or Twitter page that look like spam
- Keep an eye on Buffer’s Twitter page and Facebook page
- Your Buffer passwords are not affected
- No billing or payment information was affected or exposed
- All Facebook posts sent via Buffer have been temporarily hidden and will reappear once we’ve resolved this situation
I am incredibly sorry this has happened and affected you and your company. We’re working around the clock right now to get this resolved and we’ll continue to post updates on Facebook and Twitter.
If you have any questions at all, please respond to this email. Understandably, a lot of people have emailed us, so we might take a short while to get back to everyone, but we will respond to every single email.
– Joel and the Buffer team”
On top of this message, here’s a screenshot of the banner that was placed at the top of each user’s account (click to enlarge):
What made Buffer’s crisis communications such a success?
- They weren’t scared to get ahead of the story, making sure that their customers heard the details of the situation from them before they heard it from any other source
- They expressed true concern, care and sincerity – and were completely human
- They proved that they were taking the situation seriously
- They kept their audiences updated on the situation, in real-time, from their corporate blog as well as from their social media platforms
- Once the situation was resolved, they heightened their security measures so as to protect the situation from happening again
Declaring an end to the crisis and following through on promises
Buffer’s awesome crisis management skills didn’t end there! On Monday morning they followed the above email up with another, equally brilliant, email communication. Take a look:
I wanted to follow up with you after yesterday’s hacking incident. For many of you this has seriously disrupted your weekend – I’m sorry we caused that awful experience. The Buffer team has been working around the clock and I’m glad to say we’re back up and running. We have also spent all of today adding several security measures.
There’s one key step to using Buffer again: You will have to reconnect all your Twitter accounts, even if you’ve already done so. Go to the Buffer web dashboard to reconnect.
Other important things for you to know:
- Reconnecting won’t work in mobile apps, all Twitter accounts will have to be reconnected on the web dashboard.
- Your Facebook posting will have resumed normally, there is nothing you need to do.
- Signing in with or connecting a new Twitter account in the iPhone app won’t work until our new update is approved by Apple.
I want to apologize again and say that I’m incredibly sorry this has affected you and in many cases also your company. We’ve written a blog post with ongoing updates as we uncover the full details.
What is left for us right now is to complete our technical analysis and take further security measures. We will follow up with another update on this soon.
I want to invite you again to hit reply to this email or post a comment on our blog post. We will be sure to respond to you as fast as we can.
– Joel and the Buffer team”
They also exchanged the above banner ad with the following, positioning it front and centre at the top of each user’s account (click to enlarge):
More takeaways from Buffer’s continued (and awesome) crisis communications
- They restated and reassured that they had taken the situation seriously by declaring that new security measures had been put into place
- They were informative by providing their users with step-by-step information for reactivating their accounts
- They continued to be human, sincere and completely transparent
- They provided updates and promised even more updates in the near future
- They welcomed feedback – which made their crisis communications two-way
All of the above focused on communicating efficiently throughout the crisis, keeping their users updated and reassured and, as a result, their users trust and feel connected to the brand in a more positive way than they did before the hacking occurred.
Now this is truly something astonishing! This is what your goal should always be when planning, preparing and communicating in a crisis.
Every organization can learn from Buffer and the way they chose to handle this, potentially disastrous, crisis situation.
A crisis communications SUCCESS on all fronts. Way to go Buffer!
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
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