The current case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is unprecedented. The media coverage surrounding this crisis is ridiculous and confusing. To the date of this posting it has been 13 days since the plain went missing.
This post is not supposed to be a step-by-step analysis of this crisis. That task is far to large for the scope of my blog. Instead, I wish to analyze and make suggestions to improve Malaysian Airlines’ communication around this crisis.
I am not so arrogant as to expect my suggestions to me listened to. I am also not so bold as to pass judgment on Malaysia Airlines. I cannot possibly know all the factors involved in this situation.
See Malaysia Airlines’ updates: http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/my/en/site/dark-site.html
Things those at Malaysia Airlines have done well:
Malaysia Airlines has focused primarily on the families of those who are missing, as well they should. According to their own accounts, Malaysia Airlines have provided transportation, money, and counseling for all family members. They have communicated this focus very well on their Website.
Malaysia Airlines has updated their status at least once every day. They have done so in both English and Mandarin Chinese.
Multiple press conferences have been held, and some false information has been addressed (see link above for more details).
Malaysia Airlines has also communicated with the media fairly well, considering the uncertainty of the situation.
Malaysia Airlines has not prematurely said that the plane had crashed. Malaysia Airlines has not officially speculated about the fate of the people on the plane. This is good, but it is also a situation that should be remedied as soon as possible (by determining the fate of the plane, of course).
Contact information for the press and for families of those who are missing is posted.
Things that could be improved:
I cannot speak to how well the statement updates are written in Mandarin, but the parts written in English need some work. They use overly complex technical information full of acronyms and logical errors. The updates are repetitive, and the new information is not emphasized as much as it should be.
The format of the information provided should be consistent, and it is not.
Using links to credible information that goes beyond that provided by Malaysia Airlines might be beneficial.
Posting videos of the press conferences and posting other graphics might also be useful. Better imagery and organization could help with transparency and for improving clarity of information.
Providing the families of those who are missing the opportunity to speak with the media would also help with transparency. It might have a therapeutic effect, and would be ethical if done correctly.
Finally, Malaysia Airlines has a tendency to over communicate about information that is not particularly useful. For example, they said, “As a mark of respect to the passengers and crew of MH370 on 8 March 2014, the MH370 and MH371 flight codes will be retired from the Malaysia Airlines’ Kuala Lumpur- Beijing-Kuala Lumpur route.” While this was an admirable thing to do, it was out of place with the other media updates.
There really is not a lot more that Malaysia Airlines can do communications wise. They can only wait for further developments, and improve their communications as I have outlined.