“I apologize profusely. I am the leader of this company, and I have to take responsibility. That is why I am here. I am not running away from my obligations. Even though we don’t know what’s wrong, the passengers were on my aircraft and I have to take responsibility for that.”
This immediate ownership of Tony Fernanades, Group CEO of AirAsia after the fatal disappearance disaster of flight QZ8501 and his actions thereafter convincingly assured people that he is compassionate, on the job, and doing his best to communicate as clearly as possible.
As a Communications professional, one can’t miss the striking contrast of how differently Malaysian Airlines handled its crisis communications during disappearance of Flight MH370. Their failure to provide accurate information and clearly communicate on what was happening and reluctance to admit they didn’t do anything for about the first four or five hours just added fuel to the fire. In the given situation, a reluctance to admit they didn’t have the necessary resources and the capability to resolve this problem just escalated the problem. They didn’t act swiftly enough, nor did they stay on top of the issue, providing updates, or even just communicating that there were not any updates to be made.
While the airline jumped into action through public relations and social media, many of its statements were cryptic and unclear. The confusion and miscommunication that prevailed for days after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 opened the door to speculation from countless voices across news outlets, blogs and social media.
In comparison, we saw AirAsia’s Fernandes out front- his understanding of the power of social media in today’s times, and how it can save reputations in a crisis was undeniably evident. He was using twitter to post a stream of messages to communicate frequently with staff, passengers, and investors. His highly visible compassion and attention to finer details such as changing the airline’s bright red logo to a somber gray online struck a chord with everyone – including the passengers’ families and media.
A fatal crash is typically a make-or-break event for an airline. Irrespective of the cause, the professionalism and authenticity of the airline’s response are crucial for its reputation to recover. From accepting responsibility, appropriate key messages to a social media strategy for crisis situations, AirAsia’s crisis management excels on almost all parameters defined by International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s ‘GUIDE TO COMMUNICATING IN AN EMERGENCY’. If AirAsia bounces back from its first fatal disaster, much of the credit will go to its effusive founder Tony Fernandes and his communication skills.
Indeed, this Airlines’ initial response to the tragedy is exemplary case of crisis communications.
After all, the era of purely reactive crisis communication is over. Social has arrived on the scene…
Few weeks ago I had a meeting with a prominent business figure in the Emirati Entrepreneurship and Investment world. He raised a very interesting point, which not only start-ups, but big enterprises should remember and respect: “How do we know what needs to be done to grow our business? How does a company know if PR is going to add value?” That’s a very good question and it needs to be asked more often by business owners and decision makers. Sadly, when it comes to business and budget cuts, PR will be the first marketing discipline to be eliminated, which most of the time, is the biggest mistake companies could possibly make. PR is not just another way of paying somebody to do something you are not really sure you even need. PR is the “engine oil” of a business, and good PR is a guarantee that your brand acquires a soul.
What’s your idea of PR?
Throughout my career in PR, I came across a lot of different clients and heard a lot of different reasons why companies decide to hire a PR Consultant. Unfortunately a lot of them had very wrong understanding not only about what PR professionals do, but also, about what they want to achieve using this marketing tool. Public Relations and Communications are no longer a message in a bottle type of activities. Mobility and connectivity we acquired thanks to the internet help us to engage, and this is what people want today. They don’t want to be narrated to, they want to communicate. If you care less about receiving end for your message, and only care about what you want to say is important to you, you are wasting a lot of time and money. Why? Because nobody cares about it unless it is relevant, and if the client believes that sending 5 press releases is a good PR strategy, we will excuse our self and will not offer to be a part of it. It is very tragic that some agencies got stuck in the stone age of PR and they keep on executing the “press release factory” style PR. They ruin the whole perception about the industry. Why do we actually do it?
Choosing the right agencies
It is important for clients to go about scouting for PR agencies after doing a thorough research. A rule to remember: Don’t simply go for agencies because they are well known or handle big brands. Go for agencies that exhibit passion for your line of business. Attitude matters and it is a clincher especially while sealing the deal.
Passion should never be one-sided. It is not simply about the client’s passion for his brand alone. In fact, we as an agency must be very passionate about what we do. PR is an everyday learning and as a PR professional we have to become experts in many fields. You will never become a valuable partner to your prospective client if you are not excited about the brand. If you don’t feel you are really interested in what your client does, don’t take it on. The worst thing to happen is that you see dollar signs in front of you and you don’t see yourself enjoying the process. And process in public relations is everything. I am very grateful to my management that they do not ever force a client on me if I am not feeling fascinated by the business they run.
Involvement and Engagement
Involvement and Engagement of the agency and the client at all stages is crucial. Being involved in the brand as much as your client is involved in what is happening is critical. So, for all the companies and potential clients out there, if you do not feel that your PR agency is your partner in crime, don’t continue with them. And this works both ways. If your PR agent allows you to dictate what needs to be done and has no voice in the direction of the PR Campaign that you are mutually working on, don’t expect any success of this venture! When you bring somebody to help your business to grow, you should expect valuable contribution and measurable change, don’t settle for less.
Can you believe that only a decade ago, social media was nothing more than an up-and-coming trend? There were websites such as the likes of MySpace, but on the whole, the general population really hadn’t caught on to it.
Come 2015 – social media has never been as dynamic as it has been today! Social media is not only a key element in our modern lifestyles, but also a tool to raise awareness, and usefully market a cause – be it business related, or even personal.
We are ever-present in a generation that can’t even comprehend a world without smart phones and social media networking. Social media is not the future – social media is the present; it is embedded in our culture.
Let’s take a look at one such incident which snowballed into a worldwide movement. In December 2014, after a gunman took an unknown number of people hostage at a café in Sydney’s financial and shopping district, an anti-Islamaphobia campaign began to trend globally in solidarity with Muslims who feared reprisal.
The indisputable uncertainty in Australia led some Australians to create the hashtag #illridewithyou in a bid to show solidarity with local Muslims who might have felt threatened and susceptible to discrimination after the attack.
This hashtag was generated after there were some reported racist and discriminatory attacks against Muslims, particularly on public transport after the standoff at the café. The purpose of the hashtag was to let Muslims who would be using public transport know that they would meet them at local stations, and ‘ride’ with them on their journey so they feel safe. The hashtag trended globally on Twitter, and elicited rapid responses from globalized voices. There were 40,000 tweets using the hashtag #Illridewithyou in just two hours, according to Twitter Australia; 150,000 in four hours. Even Australia’s race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane stated that the campaign was heartwarming and added, “Let’s not allow fear, hatred and division to triumph.”
All it took was a few people to put their thoughts into words on Twitter, and those thoughts grew legs of their own in the social media domain, reaching individuals all across the planet. It is extraordinary how social media has given us a platform that makes it easier to start something momentous, and get noticed. In this day and age, we have globalized voices that can actually be heard.
Let’s make the right kind of noise.
In respect to this particular incident, all it took was a simple 140 characters to make all the difference.
Here it is. 2014 came to an end. Most of us use this time of the year to reflect on changes we want or we need. It is the perfect opportunity to review your goals, motivate yourself further, sustain them, ditching bad habits, raising and maintaining bank balances and aim to be more generous.
Some people want to give up drinking and smoking while some would like to ensure they enjoy life more and spend more time with their loved ones. With regard to our career we know for ourselves whether we are content with what we are doing or do we feel the need the raise the bar and aim higher. The New Year resolution should be something that you want and not what people expect of you. Rather than making resolutions at the end of the year, how about doing the things that keep you happy and motivated making it a habit.
Given below are some general tips which should be easy and doable for the New Year
Be Happy: Why wait for the end of the year to remind yourself that you need to be happy. How about making it your daily mantra. I am happy because I woke up today and had a productive day. If not a productive I learnt from situations I thought were impossible to handle.
Be Healthy: The old saying “Old is Gold” still stands strong. Making sure you exercise regularly, eat healthy and be positive at all times will keep you away from doctor visits. I have started spending more time on the internet looking up for quick easy healthy recipes. It makes life much simpler
Be Generous: We all love being gifted especially during the festive season. Doing the same to someone unknown would not only light up their day but also make us experience the joy in giving.
Invest in yourself: Learning is an ongoing process and the time we stop learning is when we start living the monotonous life and start complaining. Things around us are constantly changing and it is time we move on and adopt the future.
Aim Higher: There is always room for growth and pushing your boundaries while knowing your limits will help you focus on your goals you truly want. From personal relationships to career growth, never stop believing that you can do better and always aim for the next level
The above tips are for true personal growth and are a constant process of demonstrating it. Dedication and commitment and making positive changes on a regular basis is a better approach. I am going to do it !!!.