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MH370 Case Study: Lessons in Social Media and Crisis Communications


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On March 8, 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board went missing at about 1.30am. This case study is aimed at deriving lessons form the perspective of social media crisis communications.

MH370 Case Study: Lessons in Social Media and Crisis Communications

  1. 1. MH370 Case Study: Lessons in social media and crisis communications 1
  2. 2. What did they do right on social media? 2
  3. 3. 1. Lit up dark site as main source for updates, activated hotline numbers, used hashtag, shortlink Hashtag: #MASalert Shortlink 3
  4. 4. 2. Symbolic graying out of social media channels, removal of all promos deemed insensitive 4
  5. 5. 3. Responded and corrected misinformation, speculation, rumours fairly quickly 5
  6. 6. 4. Made clarifications when necessary 6
  7. 7. 5. Ignored things that needed to be ignored 7
  8. 8.
  9. 9. 6. Showed empathy for victims’ families, relatives, friends 9
  10. 10. 7. Finally appointed a single source of credible info; a spokesperson who took ownership, showed leadership, empathy BONUS: Had an active online presence Meeting families of victims of MH370. Pic on, March 29, 2014 10
  11. 11. 8. Tried to draw empathy for their affected staff, raise morale by engaging with followers and fans 11
  12. 12. What they didn’t do right (some nitpicking) 12
  13. 13. 1. Slow to update social media channels 1st post on FB at 8.12am, March 8, 2014 2nd statement on FB, timestamped 9.05am, posted on FB 9.36am, March 8, 2014 1st release timestamped 7.24am. But posted at 8.13am, March 8, 2014 (49 mins to post 140 characters, > 6 hours after incident) Update fast Use integrated one-click 13
  14. 14. Example of speed: Southwest Air Flight 345 lands nose-down at LaGuardia, July 22, 2013 Crash at 5.40pm, 1st alert tweet at 6.17pm Use unique hashtag Alert followers Follow up 14
  15. 15. Good news get it out fast, bad news get it out faster (Caveat: verify, clarify, confirm) Power of social media: Passenger David Eun tweeted shortly after crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at SFO on July 6, 2013. Over 30,000 re-tweets. Post early, get ahead of crisis. If in doubt, leave out 15
  16. 16. Jan 15, 2009: US Airways Flight 1549, landed in Hudson river after bird strike 16
  17. 17. From Twitter to Front page 17
  18. 18. 2. Information on passenger manifest kept changing, no alert on edits, some info still wrong Update, report changes 18
  19. 19. 3. No updates : Number of tweets at went down to zero some days trinetizen.comSource: TwitterCounter Keep updating 19
  20. 20. Even though, MAS Twitter followers rose > 48% from March 7 to Apr 14 trinetizen.comSource: TwitterCounter Leverage reach 20
  21. 21. Dramatic rise in FB engagement Source: Birdsong, Kevin May, Keep engaging 21
  22. 22. 4. Not leveraging “frienemy” sites to spread message FB page on Missing Plane had garnered > 400,000 Likes since March 8 – April 14 @AirAsia: 982K followers @tonyfernandes: 963K followers
  23. 23. 5. No unique URL or link for each update, not shareable, dead links, no index, no search Navigation/UI : Any update from yesterday all the way back to March 8 has no direct link at dark site, have to go to bottom of page and click tiny numbers • -> Resolves to • Alt: Test website before crisis 23
  24. 24. 6. Informed victims’ families of loss via SMS when no wreckage or evidence of plane found A text message was sent out March 24 to families of victims stating “none of those on board survived” 24
  25. 25. 7. No FAQ or Dedicated Media Room • No online FAQ to provide facts on company history, plane, manifest, secondary events, SOP, pilot profiles, blackbox technical details • Not using real-time channel to refute claims, douse speculation, correct misinformation, get ahead of rumour-mongering • No audio recording, transcripts of press conferences Italian footballer Balotelli used as example to suggest how Iranians with stolen passports looked like Develop F.A.Qs 25
  26. 26. 8. Poor visuals, no videos • Photos • Timeline • Graphics • Maps • Raw video of press conferences Dedicated digital media team 26
  27. 27. Crisis communications reactions POOR  Defensive – take it personally  Decline to comment  Deny or lie  Deflect – taichi, play blame game  Downplay BETTER Accept – that it has happened Acknowledge – to those affected, media, public Assure – show you care, calm fears Apologize (if you have to) and be specific, express regret, suggest remedy ACT – assess your allies, plan your action, act out your plan 27
  28. 28. Lessons Pre-crisis: – Form dedicated social media team – Ensure social media is part of crisis communications plan – Prepare FAQs – Train spokespersons, staff – Prepare key messages for various crisis scenarios – Practice conveying key messages in any crisis – Test ability to activate dark site Crisis – Appoint single spokesperson, take ownership – Use unique hashtag, shortlink – Use linkable, shareable page for each update – Show empathy for those affected – Be transparent with remedial action – Think visually – Record raw audio, video – post online – Reduce speculation with fast-turnaround, online updates 28