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Media training for a crisis #censusfail

After a disastrous night of online frustration for Australians, the much-hyped National Australian Census campaign is now in damage control. Yet, I had to laugh this morning after hearing radio adverts thanking the Australian public on sitting down and completing the online form.

I can bet that the ABS is in meltdown mode this morning lining up spokespeople- political and industry experts- defending it’s actions on shutting down the site. So what kind of media risk mitigation strategy did the ABS have in place? Obviously nothing. The site was taken offline around 7:30pm, but the ABS was still telling people to log in, via Twitter, as late as 9:54pm.

Planning for the worst-case scenario, particularly in the online environment is critical. Holding statements need to be drafted, screen shots with clear communication made available (no one wants to see, oops this page is currently unavailable) and most importantly, your key spokesperson needs to be prepared to make a genuine and sincere apology.

In one of the first of many interviews today, David Kalisch, the chief statistician with the Bureau of Statistics told ABC radio, in a very robotic fashion, the series of events that led to the site being shut down. Yes, the cause was explained. Yes, reassurance was offered regarding the privacy details of those 2 million who were able to submit their forms. Yet the simplest of actions is still missing– a genuine and sincere apology.

When a product launch over promises and under delivers, the public backlash can be brutal. With social media now trending, #censusfail the much-anticipated campaign is now a disaster and making world headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Take a listen to David’s radio interview on ABC Radio and tell us what you think.

http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4515560.htm