Flight MH370, crisis public relations and social media

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The tragic mystery surrounding the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has captured the airwaves worldwide since 8th March.

As the story has changed in real time since then, there can’t be many communicators who haven’t looked at what’s happening and wondered how on earth they’d handle such an unprecedented crisis situation.

But sometimes it’s hard to draw meaningful conclusions on a particular public relations or marketing issue as it’s rare to have the same information as those practitioners making the decisions. There are almost always things that outsiders don’t know that affect professional decision-making in ways those outside the situation don’t know.

It’s all too easy to highlight what could have been done differently with the benefit of hindsight and at a safe distance from the crisis situation.

But a couple of posts on the public relations and social media side of the crisis caught my eye as they provide helpful insight for communicators on what they can learn from how communication is being handled.

Jane Wilson, writing in The Drum, provides a strong analysis of the challenges that this complex and unprecedented crisis presents for communicators:

I sense that this combination of lack of precedence, highly complex interdependencies between Malaysian agencies and international partners, the absence of traditional tracking sources on board and a lack of coordination within the airline have led to public confusion and poor public relations. Even the best PR team may have buckled in these circumstances.

She also draws out several useful insights that communicators can learn from how the PR around this crisis has evolved. You can read Jane’s full article here.

Meanwhile Deeson Group‘s Emily Turner takes a useful look at the day-to-day practicalities of digital and social media in times of crisis and uses examples from the MH370 crisis to illustrate this well.

She identifies seven things that Malaysia Airlines have done across their digital portfolio in response to this crisis situation. You can read Emily’s full article here.

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