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PR Expert Says Malaysia Airlines Was Atrocious About Handling MH370 News

March 25, 2014 at 6:09 PM | by | ()

As recently as a week ago, the consensus was that the coverage surrounding MH370 - though by turns saddening, horrifying, and infuriating - wasn't really damaging the reputation of Malaysia Airlines. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a bunch of analysts who went even further, saying that not only was there limited erosion right now, but that any negative impact in the future "was likely to be modest and short-lived." Things were obviously not going well, and most people expected the worst, but airline disasters are often treated far more as generic tragedies than airline-specific incompetence. That seemed to be happening here.

If that's how things end up - if MH finally emerges from this crash with its brand more or less intact - it won't be because they didn't make spectacular efforts to fuck it up. Instead, it's like the airline went out of its way to alienate people, from the victims' families to entire countries. This took some effort.

The misstep that got the most news was the stroke of genius where it confirmed to relatives that their family members were dead... via text. It was of course quickly copied over to Twitter, and from there to the blogosphere and to mainstream outlets.

Admittedly, the airline was racing against the clock. Malaysian Prime Minister Najik Razak might have been an hour away from going on TV and telling the world the fate of MH370, but still, we think the carrier should have had a better plan in place.

We're not the only ones who think that, either. David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision - this guy - emailed Jaunted and bluntly assessed that what the airline did "ranks as one of the worst... crisis communications efforts in recent history," describing it as "a textbook case of what not to do that will be studied for years." He cited not just the text message fiasco, but also an incident where MH reportedly "even had family members removed at press conferences."

So not great, in other words, and we'll see if and how the handling of the case effects the brand's name going forward.

[Photo: Adrienne Mong / Twitter]

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