The mystery surrounding the missing Malaysian jetliner has revealed several reminders when it comes to crisis communications. No two crises are ever quite the same, but the problems companies and organization face are often very predictable.
Media want answers
The first thing to keep in mind is the media's insatiable curiosity and competitive nature. If reporters sense a good mystery, they want answers, not stonewalling. No amount of wishing the crisis away will help the Malaysian government in this case.
Mack's three part series on Crisis Communications. Read it here.
Filling the void
Next, in the absence of any hard facts, others will step in to fill the void. We've had countless rumors and speculative theories about what might have happened to the Boeing 777.
In this case, there are few facts to offer, but it appeared the Malaysian government was less than forthcoming in the early days after the plane was first reporting missing. That, alone, led to further speculation about just what were they not telling us.
Responding to a crisis
It's also crucial to remember that the public remembers not just the crisis, but how you respond to the crisis. A good communications strategy will go a long way toward a positive response, even when it turns out the crisis could have been prevented.
Unfortunately, many organizations can't resist the urge to go on the defensive. The result is two crises, the actual event and the PR crisis that can often occur as a result.
People want to be kept informed in a reasonable manner, and they want to know if and how a crisis may affect them. In the case of the missing jetliner, we all want to know if the plane was the victim of a terrorist attack and by whom.
Communication is customer service
Finally, a good crisis communications plan plays into customer service. You serve customers, and the public, by keeping them informed about what you're doing or planning to do and about what they can expect.
Customers who feel they're getting the run-around are likely to take their frustrations straight to social media, thereby compounding the problem.
Remembering these lessons will go a long way to help you successfully handle your next crisis.
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