Multilingual Business Communication

June 9, 2009

Company reputation and social media

Filed under: Ankie Dees, crisis communication — Tags: , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 9:08 pm

According to Deloitte’s 2009 Ethics & Workplace Survey, 74% of workers believe it is easy to damage a brand’s reputation via social networking sites. This result emphasizes an important part of issue and crisis management: corporate culture and employee satisfaction. As social media are getting more and more mainstream, the influence of employees on public opinion is increasing.

“With the explosive growth of online social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, rapidly blurring the lines between professional and private lives, these virtual communities have increased the potential of reputational risk for many organizations and their brands,” said Sharon Allen, chairman of the board of Deloitte LLP. “While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations is personal, a single act can create far reaching ethical consequences for individuals as well as employers. Therefore, it is important for executives to be mindful of the implications of this connected world and to elevate the discussion about the risks associated with it to the highest levels of leadership.”

Only17 percent of executives surveyed say they have programs in place to monitor and neutralize the possible reputational risks that may appear through social networks. Additionally, while less than a quarter have formal policies on the medium’s use among their people, 49 % of employees indicate that corporate guidelines will not change their behaviour online.

“One-third of employees surveyed never consider what their boss or customers might think before posting material online,” Allen continued. “This fact alone reinforces how vulnerable brands are as a result of the increased use of social networks. As business leaders, it is critical that we continue to foster solid values-based cultures that encourage employees to behave ethically regardless of the venue.”

These values-based corporate cultures should incorporate more employee feedback and participation. When people are able to talk about work-related issues on the work floor itself, they won’t feel the need to turn to third parties. Then,  if a crisis does hit the fan, your employees will be your best allies.



April 11, 2009

You are in good hands

Filed under: crisis communication, Maud Bonte — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 7:04 pm

Two weeks ago, a serious mistake was made in the Brugmann hospital in Brussels. A corrossive substance – instead of distilled water – was used to clean an endoscope, causing severe internal burns to 4 patients during a routine intestinal check-up.

The hospital immediately admitted a blunder was made. They contacted the possibly affected patients,  offered them the appropriate medical, psychological, legal, administrative assistance, and promised a compensation. A fine example of good crisis communication!

But at the same time the hospital brought action against an unknown person and tried to minimalise the damage. Two weeks have passed and nothing has been communicated concerning the results of the investigation. The patients complained about the bad communication of the hospital towards them.

The website of the Brugmann Hospital says nothing about the incident. It does say they are cooperating in a national campaign about hospital hygiene ‘You are in good hands’. I’m not so sure if the 4 victims would agree on this…

Maud Bonte

Sources: Zware fout bij darmonderzoek, Knack, 31 March 2009
Routineonderzoek in ziekenhuis heeft dramatisch gevolgen, De Standaard, 1 April 2009

April 10, 2009

Blogging in crisis communication

Filed under: crisis communication, Ruth Broekaert — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 6:26 pm

With the introduction of blogs and other social media companies have to face new challenges if they are to deal with a crisis situation effectively and efficiently.In crisis communication the goals are to maintain a positive image of the company, to present timely information, and to remain accessible. Blogs give the ability to offer updates instantly and to remain accessible. Moreover, you can use a human tone of voice to accommodate the public’s emotional response.

But how do you deal with a blogging community of millions during a crisis? Rumours can spread like wildfire from blogger to blogger, country to country. There are some things you can take into account, because after all, you do want to survive the crisis.

First of all, you should have a crisis communication plan in place. It’s very important for companies to have blogging policies, and certainly, don’t replace your crisis communications plan with blogs. It’s got to be part of the mix.

Secondly, publish facts and only facts. The more information you give, the more you can contain the issue. Don’t let speculation and assumption run wild. Bloggers appreciate openness and giving them all the information is the key.

Thridly, bloggers look for the truth. Answer any questions they might have, post comments on blogs addressing the issue, ask for their opinions and get their insight. Work with them, not against them.

And last but not least, take nothing for granted. Continuously monitor your blog, not only prominent bloggers. When rumours or allegations are completely false this doesn’t mean you can ignore it.

Ruth Broekaert

Print Media: The struggle for survival

Filed under: business communication, crisis communication, Vanessa Vanleene — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 11:31 am

The global financial crisis has made several new victims by pushing print media to the verge of extinction. These last couple of months, the already volatile sector of newspapers wearily noticed the erosion of circulation and advertising. The threat of heavy debt has forced several newspapers to file for bankruptcy or, in a final attempt to save themselves, to take extreme measures in cutting costs.


In December 2008, the Belgian publisher of several large Flemish newspapers, Corelio announced 60 layoffs. Luckily, by March 2009, the dismissals at De Morgen were limited to 15 instead of 26 employees. Corelio was also heavily criticised by the National Committee of Professional Photographers when the publisher stated they would no longer require the photographers’ services. To escape bankruptcy, Corelio’s journalists were now required to come up with their own photos for publication. The publisher is clearly giving it all in order to overcome the hardships of the economic crisis.


The question remains however whether there will be a future for print media at all. There are those who believe that the business model of newspapers is simply not up to par, especially when compared to the possibilities of the world wide web. Indeed, we are a generation who reads the news online, continuously updated all throughout the day. Maybe, the financial crisis is only pointing out the obvious, when the weakest companies have to close shop.



Vanessa Vanleene


“Gedrukt dagblad wordt een dinosaurus”, NRC Handelsblad, 12 December 2008, p. 15

Filed under: crisis communication, Laura Moerman, Uncategorized — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 8:58 am

“I really hate my boss. Working long hours, hardly any breaks, having the feeling it’s never good enough and all that for just a pittance.”
“This hotel fell short of our needs. The service is very bad and the hotel rooms are smaller than our doghouse.”

“I used to be a true fan of this brand. Now their products only disappoint me.”

You don’t have to search too long to find lamentations like these on the Internet. We all know websites like Tripadvisor, Booking and Amazon, where you can give and read ratings for products and services. Apparently, managers and executives of big companies didn’t find their way to these applications yet. As their customers and employees keep on venting their gall on the World Wide Web, companies just don’t react.

According to Leslie Gaines-Ross, expert in reputation management, companies urgently have to surrender to the Internet. Especially those that would like to keep their reputations clean, often underestimate the power of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. In other words: they miss out on a great opportunity by not using Web 2.0 applications. Most of the top executives still work in the Web 1.0 mode and only use the Internet as a traditional search engine. Without even knowing, the reputation of their company could be in danger.web201

Potential job applicants or customers that are in doubt for two products, can easily find online advice. Whether those comments are pertinent or not, doesn’t really matter. Truth, exaggeration or flagrant lie: all news travels fast.

Companies have to interfere to preserve their reputation. If not, they may have to take the painful consequences. Ask Glenn Tilton, former boss of the American United Airlines, whose dismissal was caused by a website voting for his redundancy, especially designed by the United Airlines employees. Protect yourself from disasters like these and use web 2.0. It’s the link to reputation management!

Laura Moerman

April 9, 2009

NMBS finally to roll out the red carpet for its customers?

Filed under: crisis communication, Gerlinde Van Hauwermeiren — Tags: , , , , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 11:57 pm


nmbs1Have you ever been frustrated in travelling the Belgian railways because of delays, wrong information or sudden changes in timetables? Well, you’re certainly not the only one. This week it was announced that during the last year 5,518 complaints about the company’s train transport were taken down, a new record.


Unfortunately, problems with NMBS transport not only lie with its deficient services but also with its lack of effective communication. The company’s complaints person states that even internally the communication process is anything but flawless. Ticket inspectors themselves in many cases are not well enough informed, let alone they could ever distribute correct information to the customers.


You would think this news in itself puts the railway company in a sufficient amount of bad daylight, but even to these negative reports its representatives react in a deficient way. Instead of acknowledging that there is a problem, not to say problems, they only list a whole number of excuses. It is clearly high time for the NMBS to take action and realise that it needs to roll out the red carpet for its customers instead of scaring them off to other, more reliable, means of transport.




To express your dissatisfaction with the NMBS’s transport, visit


Gerlinde Van Hauwermeiren



“Spoorweg moet lat hoger leggen” by Peter Vandermeersch. De Standaard 8 April 2009, p. 2.

“Reiziger geeft spoorwegen slechte punten” by Tom Ysebaert. De Standaard 8 April 2009, p. 9.

“Recordaantal klachten bij NMBS”. Metro 8 April 2009, p. 1.$FILE/Druk_perron.JPG  (Photo platform)  (photo logo)

Red numbers for red wine

Filed under: business communication, crisis communication, Jana Mahieu — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 10:05 pm



As broke investors are reaching for the bottle in this difficult economic times, sarcastically this bottle is also getting more expensive. With many of the region’s small wine producers staring bankruptcy in the face, Bordeaux is facing a crisis. The Independent reports that at the international wine fair of Bordeaux it was announced that the prices of different kinds of wine are under pressure. Only the very top producers are immune from the financial turmoil.


The problem can be summed up in one word: greed. Retail prices for mature, drinkable Bordeaux were driven up in the 1990s by a boom in Asian and American demand. Even relatively young wines, were sold at four times what the chateau had originally charged. Now after several years of speculative inflation, the bubble in the prices of the finest red wines in the world may be about to burst. With no end of the economic crisis in sight, maybe investors and stock brokers will go for something stronger and cheaper. Bring on the Scotch!


(Jana Mahieu)

Hear all, see all, say nothing

Filed under: Charlotte De Ruytter, crisis communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 3:26 pm

Banks are in the middle of a crisis, but good crisis communication fails to occur. Only a minority of the banks have mentioned the crisis on their websites during the last months, says communication specialist Weber Shandwick.

It is indeed striking how badly banks communicate in these hard times. Instead of informing their good customers or putting their minds at rest, banks keep their mouths shut. The last update of the file “Dexia and the financial crisis” dates from November last year. As far as I know, a lot has happened ever since. And when was the last time I have heard the slogan of KBC “Come and talk with us” (“kom eens praten”)? This slogan made KBC popular! It seems that in times of crisis, this bank takes its words back and avoids converstations.

Good crisis communication in this situation should involve personal communication. Press releases are not enough. Besides, as home banking is such a popular service, banks should use the internet and their websites to reach their customers.

(Charlotte De Ruytter)

How bad communication has changed the world

Filed under: crisis communication, Elisa Van Peteghem — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 3:14 pm

On November 9, 2009, millions of people will commemorate the 20th birthday of the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, it is not widely known that the 9th of November 1989 became a historic day due to a communicative misunderstanding. At a press conference that day, Günter Schabowski, SED-functionary and member of the Politbüro, declared that East Berlin citizens – after 28 years of seperation – were allowed to cross the West Berlin borders. He added that the decision came into force from that moment onwards. But, Schabowski was not properly informed on the decisions taken by the SED-party leaders: The borders were only meant to open the next day.

Apparently, Schabowski missed some key training in “how to give a proper interview/press conference” and unintentionally made the 9th of November a historic day. Although we cannot deplore his communicative mistakes, he should have kept following rules for a good interview in mind:

  1. Know your message
  2. Be honest and open
  3. Avoid jargon
  4. Anticipate difficult questions by preparation
  5. Evade irrelevant questions by returning to your main message
  6. Respect the journalist, be polite
  7. Assess the journalist
  8. Follow a media training

‘Vlaamse Opera’, an anti-Israeli organization?

Filed under: crisis communication, Sander Laridon, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 3:05 pm

opera_135782The Jewish community in Belgium is offended once more. This time, the ‘Vlaamse Opera‘ is the culprit. The periodical ‘Joods Actueel‘ objects in advance to the opening performance of the opera ‘Samson and Delilah’ on April 28 in Antwerp.

In the last edition of ‘Joods Actueel’, Guido Joris opposes the opera’s staging because of the possible interpretation of the two directors Amir Nizar-Zuabi and Omri Nitzan. The directors previously suggested that the biblical story serves as a model for the current conflict in the Middle East. Because of this reason, debates and film showings are organized around the stagings.

Mr. Joris holds the opinion that these films are anti-Israeli. As a consequence, he demurs to these film showings. Moreover, he fears the worst for the opera’s settings and costumes.

The ‘Vlaamse Opera’ reacted surprised to the severe criticism. They refute thevlaamseopera1 assertion that the ‘Vlaamse Opera’ is an anti-Israeli organization and are indignant because of the premature criticism.

The conflict between ‘Joods Actueel’ and the ‘Vlaamse Opera’ is the most recent one in a row of clashes with the Jewish organization.  Earlier, there were multiple conflicts with the VRT because of programmes that were experienced as offending.

The Jewish organization seems to be a little bit touchy lately. Will this succession of conflicts send the image and credibility of ‘Joods Actueel’ to the bottom?  And what about the public opinion towards the Jewish organization?


(Sander Laridon)

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