Last week I blogged a lot about reputation management and how public relations reps are in charge of managing and controlling the public’s perception of the people and the companies that are under the radar. Crisis communication is somewhat similar to reputation management. According to Wikipedia, “Crisis communication is a sub-specialty of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation.” I have a an example of a crisis communication case I am working on right now that I want to share with you.
In one of my PR classes, I am examining the disappearance of flight MH370, which is the Malaysian Airline plane that disappeared almost two years ago. According to officials and investigators, the plane must have crashed into the Indian Ocean, but there are still no confirmed answers and explanations for what happened. When a crisis like this appears, the crisis communication team comes to (hopefully) save the company’s reputation. However, its crisis communication team, or lack of, was not particularly helpful during this time.
When this tragedy arose, the public and families were not getting the answers they needed fast enough. The Twitter atmosphere was blowing up and the public started panicking. The crisis communication team who were in charge of calming the public was doing the exact opposite. They were addressing the public with many, “I don’t knows,” and if they weren’t saying those three dreaded words, they were staying silent, which is even worse.
What the crisis communication team should have done in this predicament is constantly inform the families about the progress on the investigation. Soon after its first announcement to hold an investigation, Malaysia Airlines went silent and remained silent for weeks. This action, of course, did not settle well with the public. Also there have been few concrete details about this disappearance and many statements made from the airlines have been retracted or proven incorrect. This is where Malaysia Airlines failed to be strategic communicators. It would have been in Malaysia Airline’s best interest to have one representative relaying the information to the press and public to maintain consistency. It will take a strong and cohesive crisis communication strategy to pick up the airlines pieces and change the public’s perception on them.
I hope that made sense and now you have a better understanding of crisis communication, if you didn’t already before. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or two! See you next time!