There was a collective intake of breath throughout the PR industry this week when news reports declared that a Thai Airways plane had skidded off a Bangkok runway on Sunday injuring 14 passengers on board.
It wasn’t the incident that had caused a stir with PR agencies however it was the fact that in their misguided wisdom, Thai Airways had taken the unusual approach of ‘blacking out’ their logo so that any media reports would not display the company’s branding.
There are many, many reasons why this was a very misguided act on behalf of the airline, not least based on the fact that all reports would still reference the brand within their stories, name checking the company as they did so, and also that blacking out the logo simply created a reason for the business to continue to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons!
The first rule of any crisis, for any brand, of any size is to stand up and take responsibility. If there has been a problem that you are aware of and you are responsible then hold your hands up. It is far better to say sorry than it is to offer a no comment or attempt to portion blame elsewhere.
Crisis can be difficult, particularly when the press are involved but the simple truth of the matter is that in order to maintain a level of dignity and credibility throughout these situations, companies have to address the matter professionally.
Thai Airlines should have been making a statement in response to an incident, which lets remember had left 14 passengers injured, as opposed to putting their brand first. A simple two minute comment which started with: We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our passengers… and then ended with: We are in the process of carrying out a full investigation into this matter…
The un-written statement from the brand based on their actions reads more like: We have better things to do than consider our customers at this difficult time. Instead we are going to take poor advice and cover up our logo. We will be back shortly – does anyone have any black paint?
As a result of their actions the business haven’t so much blacked their logo as their name.
Having managed crisis for some of the UK’s leading businesses, here at Open Communications we are no stranger to difficult situations. Our advice to clients is always to be honest. In any event we work from our clients offices to ensure that we are on hand to offer the advice and guidance that they need.
It would be silly to suggest that crisis are simple, they are particularly uncomfortable and potentially damaging. Irrelevant of how disastrous a situation appears it can be handled correctly and professionally, ensuring that whatever the outcome the directors of a business can maintain their integrity and where possible the reputation of the brand.
Here are five top tips for managing the communications in any crisis situation:
- If required issue an internal announcement to all employees giving brief details of the situation and also guidance on who to direct any media enquiries through to
- Arrange a meeting with all board directors and senior managers within the business
- Discuss in detail what has happened and most importantly why
- Draft a statement to all media
- Manage all media enquiries and DO NOT under any circumstances issue a no comment
As you would expect, we would always advise that in these instances the first thing that you is contact your PR agency. If you don’t have a PR agency then we would strongly advise that you find one with the experience and credentials needed to support you during what could be one of the most difficult times of your career.
In the same way that people rely on legal practices when things go wrong, organisations should trust and rely on communications experts when it matters most.
And remember, no business ever has a crisis, until it has a crisis!