Aviation Crisis Management

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Brief Introduction

Aircraft crashes can become a crisis for the aircraft manufacturer because people will question the viability of the aircraft flying. The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight 302 clash is a sad moment for the family of the people involved. The flight crashed six minutes after takeoff from the Bole international airport in Addis Ababa (Cusumano, 2020). The crash resulted in the death of 157 people who were on board. The reason for the accident is still under investigation but suggestions point to a defective automated flight control system. Following the crash, the focus has changed to Boeing company since this was the second crash involving a 737 MAX 8 aircraft (Lubowa, 2019). The response to the media and the affected families has to be focused on ensuring the company’s image and the brand is not affected by the crash. This essay will outline the key objectives of a communication strategy and justify why the objectives were chosen. Also, the essay will reflect on the communication strategy adopted by Boeing.

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Articulation and Justification of Key Objectives

One of the objectives of the communication strategy is to provide a quick, consistent, open, sympathetic, and informative message to the public. The statement is to be provided within the first 15 minutes of the news breaking to the public. The people need to learn about the crisis from the organization involved (Imad et al., 2021). The second objective will be to show compassion to the family of the victims by offering monetary compensation to the affected families. In a crisis, the involved party should show that they are in control of the situation to project confidence to the worried masses (Yim and Park, 2019). Being in control will provide the company with confidence and credibility. The third objective is to ensure consistency when providing information to the media. With the proliferation of media platforms, it has become easier for people to spread misinformation (Racine et al., 2020). The official spokesperson will be the voice of the company in the media.

The fourth objective is to show how the company regrets the incident that has occurred. This is followed by information that an internal investigation is being done. Boeing officials will call the individual family members and inform them of the situation. Also, it is expected that after the confirmation of the news from the crash site, the company will issue a conclusive report. The media is going to make the crisis bigger because it is the second crash involving the 737 MAX 8. The fifth objective will be to analyze news coverage of the story and provide clarifications. It is essential to know how the media houses are covering the unfolding crisis (Abeyratne, 2020). This can help the company effectively counter the narrative and maintain credibility.

Additionally, the sixth objective will be to prepare a media briefing by the CEO. Media briefing by the CEO should provide new information about the crash and the measures the company has taken. A briefing by the CEO will show that the company is serious about the issue and is in control. The message has to be consistent because the company is under scrutiny (Chung, 2016). The company will provide information to the stakeholders to enable them to plan on how to respond. The stakeholders may need to protect themselves from the crisis. The stakeholders include major airlines around the world and private investors. Effective communication in times of crisis is important as it can help a company retain its credibility.

Articulation and Justification of the Communication Strategy

The first step of the response on issuing a message to the media is important because a company has to own up to the situation and provide a sense of control (Cheng et al., 2018). A starting point will be liaising with the affected airline to understand what the issue was before issuing the message to the press. The communication is to be provided within the first fifteen minutes to thirty minutes of the story appearing in the media. This is to ensure that the organization can control the narrative in the media. People will likely follow the official corporation media accounts for information. Providing the people with fast and reliable information will help build trust in the organization (Avraham, 2015). Also, it will help change the way people view the company (Morakabati et al., 2017). The communication department will undertake the process of responding to questions from the media and stakeholders. Any representative of the company should avoid using “no comments” as an answer to questions by the media. This may indicate that the firm is hiding something from the people.

The company intends on being genuine instead of manipulative when providing the information. This will enable the company to gain the trust of people. Scrutiny from the media may affect the company brand which may affect the valuation of the company at the stock exchange (Hugelius et al., 2020). There will be a designated section on the Boeing website dedicated to information on the crash. The section will include information on the crash and support information for affected family members. In the social media channels, the firm will provide updates on the situation through the use of visuals and text. The visual messages should be considerate of the situation and should show sympathy to the affected families. The main aim of providing the information is to inform the people. Also, there will be a media briefing to be carried out by the CEO and the spokesperson. Within this time, the communication team will have obtained essential data that can help the company navigate through the crisis. The CEO is the face of the organization and will provide details of the problem and the measures in place to ensure it does not happen again.

The company’s media department will brief the senior management and workers on the crisis and the plan to navigate the crisis. Senior management has to understand the position of the firm regarding the crisis (Arokiasamy et al., 2019). The press may seek information from the staff members due to the media attention the issue is receiving. All members of staff have to liaise with the company media department to ensure they provide a consistent message. Any information provided to an external entity will be assessed by the communication department before being sent out. The second media briefing by the CEO will provide the procedures put in place to compensate the affected families subject to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation.

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Reflection of the Crisis Communication Strategy

Providing accurate and fast messages is important in times of crisis. Companies have to act fast to ensure that their image is not tarnished. In this case, Boeing experienced a second fatal crash for its new 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The crash came at a time when the company was dealing with intense media scrutiny concerning the safety of the 737 MAX 8. Being in control of the situation will allow the company to reduce the negative perceptions it would have generated (Hannenberg, 2020). The communication strategy has to use the available tools such as websites, social media platforms, and media briefings (Gunasegar et al., 2020). Media briefings should be done by the CEO of the company to show that the company is taking the crisis seriously. The CEO is the leader of the organization and is tasked with communicating the decisions and plans of the company to stakeholders. The appearance of the top management in times of crisis can change the perception of the staff and clients. The message from the CEO should be sympathetic to the plight of the affected families.

Utilization of the appropriate channels can ensure that the message reaches a wide audience. In recent times, companies have started going online as they seek to engage with clients in a different way (Jong and Brataas, 2021). In times of crisis, this can be an advantage and a disadvantage because of the ability of the clients to turn against the brand due to the crash. The advantage is that the firm can use the channels to appeal to its clients and to provide clarity on the state of events (Adi and Kartikawangi, 2016). Communication should happen in the right way and should address the pertinent issue.

Monitoring the crisis on different platforms provides the company with the ability to respond to new issues in real-time. The crisis may bring media scrutiny which may affect the brand of the company. By monitoring what is being said about the organization, the company can be able to issue statements without delay (Kirmse, 2016). One of the problems experienced during crisis communication is the delayed responses to problems that arise (Wolbers and Boersma, 2018). Showing a reluctance to provide information to the public will lead to the development of distrust (Coombs, 2014). This can cause investigative journalists to focus on the company which will tarnish the name of the company. The team monitoring the comments on different channels should ensure that replies are done promptly (McClelland Jr, 2016). It is difficult to answer all the queries hence the team will have to provide answers to the pressing issues only.

Conclusion

In summary, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash in Bishoftu, Ethiopia is a catastrophic event for the company. Managing such a crisis requires a robust communication strategy to help in providing credible information to the victim’s families and stakeholders. The success of the plan relies on the use of appropriate channels which incorporate the diverse stakeholder needs. The appearance of the top management in briefings will portray an organization in control of the situation. The spokesperson should not use “no comments” as a reply to a question as it would imply the firm is hiding something. In times of crisis, the main aim is to assure that the organization is focused on managing the situation and reducing the suffering of any person.

Reference List

Abeyratne, R., 2020. Digital Crisis and the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft. In Aviation in the Digital Age (pp. 75-107). Springer, Cham.

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Adi, F. and Kartikawangi, D., 2016. The airline crisis communication: A text analysis of AirAsia’s press release related to the plane crash from 2015. Jurnal InterAct, 5(2), pp.83-101.

Arokiasamy, L., Kwaider, S. and Balaraman, R.A., 2019. Best Practices for Crisis Communication: A Qualitative Study. Global Business & Management Research, 11(2).

Avraham, E., 2015. Destination image repair during crisis: Attracting tourism during the Arab Spring uprisings. Tourism Management, 47, pp.224-232.

Cheng, Y., Liu, D., Chen, J., Namilae, S., Thropp, J. and Seong, Y., 2018, July. Human behavior under emergency and its simulation modeling: a review. In Cassenti D. (eds) International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (pp. 313-325). Springer, Cham.

Chung, S., 2016. Simulations for Crisis Communication: The Use of social media. International Association for Development of the Information Society.

Coombs, W.T., 2014. Ongoing crisis communication: Planning, managing, and responding. Sage Publications.

Cusumano, M.A., 2020. Boeing’s 737 MAX: a failure of management, not just technology. Communications of the ACM, 64(1), pp.22-25.

Gunasegar, L., Nguyen, O., Nikolova, N., and Tenekedjiev, K., 2020. Team resilience in emergency response: analytical framework and study of air transport accident reports. In Proceedings of the 10th Asian Logistics Round Table Conference (ALRT) (pp. 352-368).

Hannenberg, A.A., 2020. Cognitive aids in the management of critical events. Anesthesiology Clinics, 38(4), pp.789-800.

Hugelius, K., Becker, J. and Adolfsson, A., 2020. Five challenges when managing mass casualty or disaster situations: a review study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(9), p.3068.

Imad, A.R., Elbuzidi, K.J.S. and Chan, T.J., 2021. Crisis Management and Communication Approach: A Case of Boeing 737 MAX, Journal of Arts & Sciences 4(2), pp. 7-14

Jong, W. and Brataas, K., 2021. Victims as Stakeholders: Insights from the Intersection of Psychosocial, Ethical, and Crisis Communication Paths. Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research, 4(1), p.3.

Kirmse, B., 2016. Communication and Adequacy of Crisis Management: Lessons from the crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525 (Bachelor’s thesis, University of Twente).

Lubowa, D., 2019. Product liability in air transport: the case of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 320. Eastern African Journal of Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism, 6(1), pp.60-89.

McClelland Jr, T.B., 2016. Experts’ recommendations to create effective teams for successful crisis management: A delphi study (Doctoral dissertation, University of Phoenix).

Morakabati, Y., Page, S.J., and Fletcher, J., 2017. Emergency management and tourism stakeholder responses to crises: A global survey. Journal of Travel Research, 56(3), pp.299-316.

Racine, M., Wilson, C. and Wynes, M., 2020. The value of apology: How do corporate apologies moderate the stock market reaction to non-financial corporate crises? Journal of Business Ethics, 163(3), pp.485-505.

Wolbers J, and Boersma K., 2018. Key challenges in crisis management. In Gephart Jr, R.P., Miller, C.C. and Helgesson, K.S. (eds). The Routledge Companion to Risk, Crisis and Emergency Management (pp. 17-34). Routledge.

Yim, M.C. and Park, H.S., 2019. Why legitimacy matters in crisis communication: A case study of the “Nut Rage” incident on Korean Air. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 33(2), pp.172-202.

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