The corporate damage suffered by Ardent Leisure following the tragic fatalities at Dreamworld was exacerbated by an apparent lack of a social and digital strategy.
Bad sentiment was just the beginning
Online media traffic took off at the word of the accident and of course sentiment analysis was negative as it reflected the shock and grief of the tragedy.
The wordcloud was a good reflection of the topics being aired in social.
Controversy surrounding Dreamworld’s reaction to the event immediately erupted, in no small part due to the silence of Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure – which is listed on the ASX.
By isolating only mentions in social related to the CEO of Ardent we can get a view of sentiment, and it is not good.
The sentiment is overwhelmingly negative.
In terms of the total of negative to positive comments, 88 percent of those about the CEO and Ardent were negative. Inspection of the comments showed that the majority focused on the company’s PR response to the tragedy. Even the Australian Financial Review posted a very negative tweet referring to an article critical of Ardent.
Digital and social strategy absent
In reviewing the social and digital presence of Ardent and Dreamworld it is very quickly apparent that only a rudimentary level of expertise exists. The Dreamworld Twitter account appears to be run by a 3rd party and was purely mechanical.
In terms of crisis management the Twitter account has serious deficiencies:
- The “Happiness” logo is inappropriate at this time;
- The bio should also be modified to reflect crisis management objectives;
- The approach to using Twitter as an element of crisis management has been to close down communications.
In all, the Twitter account is sending signals that there is no crisis management plan, or at at least no crisis management plan that incorporates social media.
Website is less than empathetic
The Ardent website exhibits a similar absence of both empathy and any crisis management plan:
- The website has no social links. This is a reflection of the mindset of the owners and probably goes a long way to explain the lack of digital and social crisis planning and engagement;
- The site has only News updates about the tragedy – PR with no “human connection”;
- The most prominent item on the homepage is the share price;
- The site contains all the same “happy” promotional images and references to Dreamworld; and,
- It also seems to be quite out of date as the Goodlife gyms were reported to be sold but still feature heavily on the site.
In summary, neither the website nor the social channels have been actively managed to play any role in the management of the crisis. This is quite remarkable on the part of Ardent since their silence has only served to amplify the voices of everyone in social media critical of the company.
As crisis management goes, Ardent has failed at all three stages of this crisis so far:
- Phase 1 – spotlight on the incident – mostly slience and certainly not using their digital or social channels;
- Phase 2 – moving to the victims and the perpetrators – a clear failure here by Ardent;
- Phase 3 – the “why” stage and everyone having an opinion – again a clear failure by Ardent either because of an apparent complete absence of a crisis management plan, or ignorance of the role of digital and social; and,
- Phase 4 – the fallout/resolution stage – we’re moving into this stage. While we do not know the end outcome we know that Ardent remain grossly deficient in utlising their digital and social assets to reshape their reputation.
It’s a mindset of the past
What’s the biggest conclusion about Ardent and Dreamworld as a result of this crisis? It is that their type of mindset about digital and social and business is as dead as a dodo.
Let’s hope for the sake of their shareholders that they are able to rebuild their reputation and business, and catch up with the world.