When flight MH370 seemingly vanished into thin air, Malaysia Airlines jumped into crisis response mode. The flight departed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the morning of March 7, 2014, in route to Beijing, and is said to have disappeared over the China Sea. With 227 passengers and 12 employees on board, the stakes are high and the public and press are demanding answers.
The unpredictability and absence of information makes this crisis considerably more difficult for all impacted parties. Naturally, a company that is prepared for such a situation will tread through the crisis much more effectively and efficiently than one with no such plan in place. Malaysia Airlines has enacted their crisis communications plan and is demonstrating to the world how to effectively communicate in a time of crisis.
Malaysia Airlines has taken the recommended approach of facing the public head-on and releasing information as it becomes available. Releasing information is a key part in maintaining control during a crisis, even when shrouded in such mystery. Information reassures the public that the crisis is being handled and they are working toward solving or resolving the issue. Crisis response can determine the strength of an organization, and how and when they respond will ultimately determine the public’s perception.
As of now, the airline is choosing to share information and calm rumors through its website and the press. The company has publicly released the passenger list, the emergency search efforts, and the status and history of the Boeing 777 aircraft. Setting up a designated page for the public and press, the airline is responding to speculation in a timely, professional and composed manner.
In a crisis situation similar to Malaysia Airlines, a business not only faces the parties directly affected, but their potential customers and stakeholders. It is recommended that a business make efforts to communicate their sympathy, security procedures, and actions being taken to the general public.
With every passing hour and speculation mounting, the airline is also faced with communicating the unknown. While waiting until the mystery is solved to release information would be easiest approach, it would greatly diminish their reputation. Clarifying that there are still unknowns and that the organization will be diligent in informing the press and public as details emerge can help to soothe those seeking answers.
In addition to the airline, international security is also in question. How were two passengers able to board the plane with stolen passports? Is it possible that this is an act of terrorism? What implications will this incident have in the future? While systems and plans are flawed, it is best to always have the customer in mind. Understand that crises is often unexpected and that your employees should be trained to handle issues of adversity.
For more information regarding crisis management or strategic communications, do not hesitate to contact the Fallston Group at 410.420.2001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.