Social media’s role in the Eurostar crisis
On Saturday 19th December 2009, five Eurostar trains broke down due to thefreezing weather. This event left more than 40,000 passengers stranded on bothsides of the Channel and around 2,000 people trapped in the tunnel for severalhours. Customers, angry and frustrated at the lack of information about what washappening, turned to social media platforms like Twitter to vent their frustration.
This case study examines the role of social media during and after theevent. It also discusses the benefits of integrating social media channelsinto the overall communications strategy, particularly in the event of acrisis.
A spokesman for Eurostar stated that, although they did have a plan in place formanaging issues of this type, they were unprepared for multiple breakdowns onthat scale:
“Eurostar admitted it had been aware of the issue for a while, but maintained that whereas in the past it had affected one train at a time, last weekend wasunprecedented in having so many trains break down. Lesley Retallack, a Eurostar spokesman, said there had been similar incidents "on one or two occasions" but that this time it had occurred on an unprecedented scale and at one of the busiest times of year for the company.”
Aside from concerns about the safety of the passengers trapped in the tunnel,which is currently being investigated in an independent review, Eurostar werecriticised for their failure to communicate properly with those involved:
“You can’t treat people like that, [leaving them] without information
,” said Frenchecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo, speaking to French television crews after theevent. The events have sparked fresh debate about the role of social media as a tool for PRand communications because of its capacity for real-time communication withcustomers in a crisis situation.
Social media has an important role to play in crisis communications.
Eurostar's social media presence at the time of the crisis was limited to a singlecampaign. Managed by online conversation agencyWe Are Social, their 'LittleBreak, Big Difference' project focused on the benefits of short breaks to Brussels,Paris and Lille using awebsite, Facebook page and Twitter account.
Social media’s role in the Eurostar crisis: Case StudyHolly Knowlman @ The Vivid Consultancy