Crisis Comms very much ‘up in the air’

The two recent tragedies involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft have raised many questions about the safety of this new model…

…and investigations are now fully underway to decide whether the incidents were connected and what the primary cause in each case was.

Regardless of the findings which emerge there is one fact of which we can be certain: the handling of the crisis so far by Boeing has been somewhat less than exemplary and illustrates just how important it is to have a good crisis communication plan at the ready when the unthinkable happens.

Denial is never a good look

OK, so there is no evidence at the moment to suggest that the core fault does indeed lie within the realms of the manufacturer – but that does not stop the eyes of the world turning towards them, almost in unison, to see what, if anything, they are going to offer as a temporary solution whilst final reports and recommendations are prepared.  Their initial reaction has been one of denial and this attitude, as history will confirm, does not tend to sit well with the general public, let alone the friends, families and colleagues of the 376 souls who lost their lives across both crashes.

Actions speak louder than words

More than 40 countries grounded their 737 Max 8 fleets within hours of the Addis Ababa accident, feeling that its occurrence, just five months after the initial crash in Java, was enough to justify such action.  Despite this, Boeing refused to accept the need to cease flying the aircraft in the USA and this decision was only overturned through Presidential intervention some three or four days later.  This is the point at which, in our opinion, Boeing lost full control of the situation; the application of sensible precautionary measures having to be carried out by someone other than them somewhat tarnished (or indeed ridiculed) their highly-publicised claim to be a corporation with safety as a core value.

Commercial considerations to one side please

Some may see Boeing’s failure to act quickly and decisively – and in fact to go against the opinion of the vast majority of their customers and stakeholders – as proof that they value profit over life and well-being (co-incidentally two other terms which appear within their list of core values).  As a side-effect of their inaction they also managed to show a huge amount of disrespect to those affected by both incidents, alienating themselves from a nervous general public who sought little more than reassurance that the protection of lives mattered more than anything else.

An unsurmountable challenge?

Boeing are now left with a situation from which many believe they cannot recover. The action (or lack of action) they have taken so far has created such strong negative impression that the pressure to now turn things around is of gargantuan proportions.  Even the virtue of their initial social media posts only hours after the crash to extend their sympathies was cancelled out almost immediately by their quick focus on technicalities, so there is very little positive collateral on which they can build.  There is a real need for them to take a step back and think carefully about every move they take as they go forward, both off and on line.  Social media will play a huge part in determining their future, not only in the posts which they themselves initiate but in their company’s reaction to the viral posts of others.  Everything associated with them must ooze sympathy, understanding and, most importantly, an acceptance that public safety is always the highest priority.

I wouldn’t start from here…

The ultimate outcome of these terrible tragedies will not be revealed for some time and we, just like everyone else, hope that the families of those involved get the answers they so desperately seek.

In terms of Boeing, their own survival depends as much on their actions as on the findings of the investigation.  One thing which we here at Rachel Hargrave Consulting know is that their lack of crisis planning, or indeed their failure to implement good crisis communications when called for, has put them in a truly unenviable situation.  Had things been handled differently from the outset they would have been in a much better position to take positive action and recover, even if blame is found to lie within the field of manufacture.  People will forgive mistakes (even with such dire consequences as we have seen here) provided they believe those involved have done their very best to respond to events and assist in the ultimate resolution.  Sadly for Boeing, this will be an uphill struggle of a magnitude seldom seen and one which is unlikely to be turned around, even by the most amazing PR campaign imaginable.

Posted in

Rachel Hargrave

Rachel has over 30 years of local, regional, national and international communications experience and expertise across a wide variety of clients including FTSE 100 companies, SMEs, micro businesses and start-ups. She also has extensive charity, Not-For-Profit and Community Interest Company experience and happily offers clients working in these areas a 50% discount on all RDZ PR rates.

No risk with a FREE initial 45 minute consultation

To find out exactly how we can help you achieve your ambitious goals get in touch with us today. Our initial meeting is completely FREE and we promise you’ll leave with three brand new ideas that you can take away and implement immediately.

For your FREE consultation simply pick up the phone and call us today on:

What Our Clients Say...

Dean The Art Wizard.

Rachel is fantastic at what she does.  She is able to help you define your ambitions, develop your goals and help you grow your ideas to the stage you’re 100% happy with.  Throughout my own journey her encouragement has enabled me to really go for my dreams!  After talking to Rach I discovered the one-thing that I want to do in my life which has not yet been fulfilled.  Rach’s support has helped me believe in myself again.  Due to Rach’s assistance, we have now almost completed my very first press release which is the start of my audience growing strategy.  This will, in turn, enable me to work towards my key goal.   I look forward to continuing working with Rach in the future although I do realise I do take a lot of time up of her time!  However, I feel she also gets a real sense of satisfaction from assisting people to really go for their goals in life.   Without doubt I would highly recommend Rach and I would be happy to speak with anyone interested in using her PR services. 

Sangeeta Patel, Joint CEO, Reaching People

Rachel provided us with a day of free support in association with the LLEP programme. Despite it being ‘free’ Rachels support was professional and dedicated. We received a full day of practical support including a discussion to fully understand our organisation, an assessment of our need, the production of a communications and marketing plan that was realistic, manageable and practical aimed at helping us move ahead on the communications front and, ultimately, with our organisational objectives. Rachel achieved so much in the time she had including writing and issuing a press release that appeared in the Leicester Mercury, wording for our website homepage and a letter to go with our membership pack. She also shared her hints and tips about social media, her press contacts and she connected me with a potential Reaching People member! In all it was an invaluable experience. Thank you, Rachel for giving up your time to help us.

Heather Johnson, Botanical Artist & Stationery Designer

I went on one of Rachel’s introduction to PR workshops and it was fantastic. She covered absolutely everything, explained it all in an understandable way and didn’t try to sell anything. She gave as much information as possible, answered all questions and she was just lovely. I would highly recommend Rachel for anything to do with PR and won’t hesitate to use her services in the future.

Ravi Summan

I was introduced to Rachel by an executive coach. My requirements were to provide quality, simple to understand content to engage with my target market and generate new customer enquiries in health and wellbeing. From my first discussion with Rachel, it was clear that she had the skills and empathy to provide a service to support the growth of my business. Rachel’s content writing and editing is very effective and her diligence ensures the right message is articulated. It is no surprise to me she has a strong track record of helping entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes support their growth. Aside from her professional competencies, Rachel genuinely cares about people and working with her allows you to focus on your core business. For those who are new to building their own business or employed by a large corporate, you will get value and authenticity from Rachel’s content and PR services.

Jayne McIntosh, Director, Air Aesthetics Health & Wellness Clinics

I met with Rachel and was instantly impressed with her warmth, enthusiasm and ability to understand the key issues being faced. She took time to clarity objectives and the key tasks required. A quick study she was able to pinpoint the brand tone of voice accurately. Rachel’s’ copy writing skills have been excellent. She has written for my business website, advertorial pages in lifestyle magazine and has also written first class responses to awards entries which are curtailed in length. Rachel is just really, really good!

Victoria Curtis, Company Secretary, Mono Roofing Ltd

Rachel came to provide our company with an appraisal for the company PR, and we learnt an awful lot! Rachel taught us how to make the most of our marketing and advertising and how to make it work for us, to get the client’s we really want. Rachel has provided our company with a plan to follow, and we are gradually implementing these procedures, and we know that in doing so, it will really raise the profile of our company and get us the work we want. I would definitely recommend Rachel to manage your company’s PR.

Trusha Lakhani, MD, Great Business Matters t/a Trusha Lakhani

Rachel Hargrave is one of the best PR experts that I have met. She not only understands the best awards for her clients but also how to make the most of the opportunity for the client’s personality. Put simply Rachel gets people. She understands her clients and their goals and is with you all the way. I highly recommend Rachel Hargrave and The Awards people and RDZ PR.

Paul Gerrard, MD, Gerrard Cranes

Rachel and I met yesterday to discuss my existing marketing and options for how we can improve and develop the strategy for my business. It’s very clear that Rachel has vast amounts of experience, knowledge, ability and some great contacts to achieve some amazing results. If you need some professional guidance with PR/awards/marketing then I’d highly recommend you get in touch with Rachel and see how she can help you out.

Victoria Beale, CEO, Business Live Global

I’ve worked with Rachel for the past ten years on a variety of client projects and for my business also and the service we have received has been second to none, consistent and most importantly delivers RESULTS. I would have no hesitation recommending RDZ PR to my customers and Business Live Network. Thanks Rach! Here’s to another ten years and more!

Mark Esho MBE, Easy Internet Services, Easy Internet Solutions, Dreme, Access Rating CIC

Thanks for all the hard work you put into the PR work for our companies and subsequently the business award submissions. You made the whole process stress-free, and the quality of the submissions have resulted in the receipt of multiple business awards. Great work, Rachel.