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Malaysian Airlines, crisis communication and media training

21 March 2014
It has been a tough few weeks for Malaysian Airlines, so how effective have they been with their crisis communication? Malaysian AirlinesWhen the flight first went missing, they did a pretty good job. They had briefings about every two hours. That’s important because it means the media will not have to hunt elsewhere for story sources. The first principal of crisis communication should be to take control of the story. That means being the major source of information. To do this, you must have a spokesperson always available. They did that well. As well as the briefings, they sent out regular media releases and alerted people on social media that they were available on the company website. These focused on what they knew and expressed empathy for the victims’ families. But once the government took over, things began to change. Firstly, media briefings were only held once a day. That made the media search for other sources. Many of these sources had different theories about what happened. Basically many so-called aviation experts were used by the media and most stories were based on speculation, rather than fact. A classic media training mistake was also made. Multiple government ministers were used as spokespeople. This led to mixed messages and lots of conflicting information. This is why it’s so important to limit the number of spokespeople on any given issue. Usually this should be one, but clearly there needed to be more than one here. But there should have been only one government minister used. While briefings were limited to once a day, the government also appeared to be holding back information. This was not a good look. So while Malaysian Airlines did a good job early, things deteriorated. It was not their fault, but they will still take a reputation hit on the back of the government response. The best they can do is focus on the needs of relatives and keep showing empathy towards them. For more on our media training or crisis communication planning workshops, contact pete@mediatrainingnz.co.nz

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Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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