Plus: Uncertainty abounds at Vice, Reddit prepares to go public — with a twist.

Did you hear about, or worse, experience firsthand, the AT&T outage yesterday? If so, you were reminded just how necessary cellular networks are to our interconnection and our commerce. If you’re in AT&T’s shoes, you also experienced a PR nightmare.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there were 75,000 reports of outages at 9:15 Thursday. The telecoms giant apologized and reported it was working diligently to return service to all customers and encouraged users to use WiFi calling as a backup plan.

“Based on an initial review, the outage resulted from ‘an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network,’ said an AT&T spokesman Thursday,” reported the Wall Street Journal,  “adding that it wasn’t the result of a cyberattack.”

By late Thursday, the outage was resolved. But by then, authorities as high up as the White House were briefed on the issue, with many looking for the root cause of the issue.

“Keeping our customers connected remains our top priority, and we are taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future,” an AT&T spokesman said in a statement shared with the Wall Street Journal. What those steps are remains unclear.

Why it matters: When one of the nation’s biggest cell phone data providers goes down, it’s undeniably a big deal. Think of the disruptions to both people’s personal lives and the businesses they’re a part of — if AT&T calls were needed to facilitate anything there, people might have been out of luck. (Though in today’s world with so many options, there are plenty of alternative ways to get in touch.)

AT&T’s response is notable too. Sure, the spokesperson apologized for the issue, and that’s not nothing. But it’s the commitment to sharing context, steps and details that instill confidence it won’t happen again, and actually following through on it that matters. Sometimes technical issues are out of our control. But when you’re providing an infrastructural service, you’re expected to follow the crisis communications fundamentals and provide answers.

Editor’s Top Picks:

  • According to the New York Times, VICE is preparing to cut jobs amid a changing media landscape. Vice staffers claim that their access to download the contents of their emails was revoked. Another editor revealed that he received a communication from the VICE CEO, stating that jobs are being cut and material isn’t going to be published on the VICE site going forward. Long a repository for creative and groundbreaking journalism, it’s a shame to see VICE go out with a whimper. It’s even more sad to see leaders at the publication not answer the queries of concerned staffers and instead hide behind a mass email at the end of an anxious day. During times of change, leaders need to communicate. It’s not good for employees, and it’s just as bad for your organization’s reputation.
  • After a long period of speculation as to when it would happen, Reddit is finally going public with an IPO. But while that is notable, there’s something unique about the Reddit IPO that’s grabbing attention. “In an unusual twist, Reddit is also giving an unspecified number of its top users, including moderators and those with high karma scores, the chance to buy shares in its IPO,” a report from The Verge said. “That’s a privilege usually reserved for professional investors who want to buy stock at a theoretically lower price before everyone else gets to purchase it on the public market,” Reddit, which has built itself as a community-based site, is leaning into that reputation with this move. It’ll be interesting to see if other social platforms make similar moves in the future.
  • Over the past few years, TikTok has taken the social media scene by storm. However, a report from the Pew Research Center showed that half of American adult TikTok users have never posted a video to the platform and that a small percentage of creators make a vast majority of the content seen on the app. The more PR pros and communicators know about the latest trends in social media, the better equipped you are to create content that resonates with younger demographics and audiences. Keep those ears to the ground.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

The post The Scoop: AT&T outage disrupts communication across the country appeared first on PR Daily.