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Published August 30th 2016

Going Underground: On the Need for the Right Channel at the Right Time

M&C Saatchi's Chris Owen has had enough of companies using the wrong channels to communicate with customers. Here's why

Last night, having trundled up London’s Carnaby Street and played Dodge The Dawdling Tourist as I approached Oxford Circus tube, I took the escalator down to the platform and merrily boarded the carriage heading north to Marylebone, where I’d catch my train home.

Except the tube didn’t stop at Marylebone.

No, it slowed to a crawl and went through the entire station – an electrical problem having shut the Underground station earlier that afternoon, rending the escalators dysfunctional, so I had to get off at the next stop (which, ironically, doesn’t have escalators), and walk.

So far, so London Underground.

But none of us on that train had been told that Marylebone was closed. There was no warning – otherwise me and the other pretty annoyed commuters walking would have jumped ship at an earlier stop and walked for two minutes rather than ten.

So I asked Transport for London, (which runs the Tube), via its Twitter account once I was above ground.

I asked why no-one was told, and was advised that “… this information was tweeted on the @Bakerlooline feed and can also be found here:”. The link is an online list of every TfL station.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 09.29.34

Now, this is brainless.

TfL, in this situation, have hundreds of passengers literally standing as a captive audience as they’re on a train, which TFL’s driver is handling; a driver who has an in-train tannoy.

Every station, in addition, has a tannoy. But neither of these were used. Instead, in its infinite wisdom, TfL decided to broadcast this on Twitter. While operating services under the ground.

Granted, some stations have half decent wifi now, (don’t believe the hype), but to use Twitter as your medium of choice for travel updates borders on the insane.

Mind the Gap

Why ignore standard routes direct to commuters – a train announcement, for example, where everyone is, trundling through their stop? Or pan-station tannoys which while announcing the Bakerloo had delays, failed to mention Marylebone being closed.

What’s happened here is that a new channel; a more dynamic, engaging, and more… ‘2016’ channel, has been chosen to make a company look modern and tapped in.

But it’s fundamentally flawed – not everyone is on Twitter for starters, and not everyone who is on it follows @BakerlooLine.

And not everyone checks to see if their station is open before travelling – this is only the first time in two years the Underground station was completely closed; how paranoid do you need to be to still check daily and be one of the few who would have seen the link TfL shared?

Just because you have a social channel, it doesn’t mean you should focus all your attention on it.

It should be part of your overall communications approach, rather than the sole medium – especially when traditional, less thrilling options actually remain 100% effective at getting a message across to precisely who needs to be advised, when and where they need it.

Chris is a regular contributor to the Brandwatch Blog. Find out more about M&C Saatchi by clicking here.

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