Airline Disasters Reveal Valuable PR Lessons

No organization wants to have to deal with a disaster. But a major event can teach an organization a lot about their public relations capabilities. The proof: data from airline disasters. Here are a few lessons learned from public responses to some recent high-profile events.

Advertising intelligence director Bryan Melmed spoke with PRWeek, discussing the findings he and his team compiled from 400 hours of research and data from consumer responses to airline disasters, including:

  • The June 2009 Air France crash into the Atlantic Ocean
  • The March 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines, and
  • The May 2015 Germanwings crash.

Melmed says the research offers recommendations for communications strategies both before and after a disaster, including:

Pre-disaster brand perception matters: “The best insurance against a disaster is being a strong and trusted brand in the lead up to it … the before is actually far more important than what happens in the six hours to two weeks after a disaster.”

Too much attention is on immediate response: Pointing to quick responses from Air Asia and Germanwings, Melmed says the strength of the brand is more important in the long-term from a consumer standpoint.

Be careful with logos: If your organization has a recognizable logo that’s visible in images of the disaster (such as the Lion Air crash at Bali), it effectively brands the disaster. Germanwings kept its logo out of post-disaster PR, which likely helped protect its brand.

It takes time: “For air incidents, it takes around three years for more than 90% of consumers to be unaffected by an incident.” In other words, post-disaster management is a marathon, not a sprint.

Click here to read more of Melmed’s findings.

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