PR Crisis Management In Asia – SIA Plane Crash
A Case Study of PR Crisis Management Gone Right in Asia Pacific
SIA Plane Crash Aftermath and PR Management
Just as the image suggests, a PR crisis is both a danger as well as an opportunity for your company. Upon good handling, a crisis can transform into a victorious return, otherwise it might become a battle of Waterloo. In the long history of Public Relations and crisis management, there are numerous cases whereby corporations escaped brand death narrowly. Here is one good example of a PR crisis management well handled.
(See BP Oil spill, a PR crisis gone wrong here)
Overview of SIA Plan Crash
Singapore Airlines (SIA) was famed for its commitment to safety and high quality service, and kept the image up since its independence in 1947, until a disastrous crash took place in 2000 which damaged its long-held clean record.
Singapore Airlines Flight 006 aka SQ006 took off from Singapore Changi Airport to Los Angeles international Airport via Chiang Kai-shek Airport in Taiwan. 11 seconds after its liftoff, the Boeing 747-400 smashed into the construction equipment and erupted into flames. Among the 179 passengers, 83 lives were claimed, 71 received serious or minor injuries and 25 escaped unscathed. Since it took place in Taiwan, the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) of the Republic of China carried out the investigation.
Crisis Management after the Crash
Although this plane crash did not yield as many casualties as other airline disasters, it attracted extensive media attention given that it was the first in SIA history and the rescue was carried out amidst Typhoon Xangasane. Almost immediately, SIA was bombarded with lawsuits from survivors, the victims’ families, the media and the public.
SIA’s CEO Dr. Cheong rushed to Taipei after the accident occurred, abandoning his meeting in New Zealand, supervised the crisis plan and shouldered the role of the company’s spokesperson. He immediately announced that SIA took full responsibility for the crash, disseminated accurate information to media and corrected false statements by Los Angeles employees that there were no fatalities. He then dispatched a team of SIA employees trained for mobilization and flew them to the crash site to serve as grief and trauma counsellors.
SIA did not neglect the recovery and learning phase and left no stone unturned in the process of evaluating the airline’s operating system to assure shareholders, business partners, passengers and media that SIA aircrafts are fit to fly. They installed better systems to help identification of runways and even ordered new shoes to replace the sandals previously worn by flight attendants to silence the alleged accusation that sandals are too flimsy thus compromised flight attendants’ ability to conduct rescue efforts.
Several measures were taken for damage control. First, press releases were issued and press conferences were held quickly to accommodate journalists and feed them the information they desired. Second, adequate medical care and excessive compensation packages were made promptly to help the victims and their family members. Third, they successfully directed the public eye to focus on the investigation.
The SQ006 crash presented SIA with tremendous difficulty in handling the crisis. Nevertheless, SIA was impressive in addressing the publics, media and Taiwan authorities by providing sufficient aid, disseminate accurate information swiftly and conducting press conferences with Taiwan via satellite.
There is more study to be done on how Asian countries conduct crisis management. There is a need to sharpen the best practices in public relations to highlight the differences in culture, tradition and societal expectations. Knowing more of how Asian countries overcome crisis would be advantageous to western companies that wish to expand their business territory eastwards.
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Source: Ee Ling J Tan