Crisis Communications Expert Shows How Flight MH370 Should’ve Been Handled

The story has dominated the news for weeks now and there has been endless criticism of the way Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government communicated the details of the missing flight MH370.

Canadian disaster communicator and university lecturer Nancy Argyle shared her thoughts in a recent article on She takes a look at what went wrong in the communications efforts during this tragedy and what we can all remember to do right in future crises.

“In the very specialized field of disaster communications, there is one cardinal rule. Do no harm. It’s a rule that the teams communicating the crisis of disappeared Malaysia Flight MH370 did not seem to fully comprehend,” Argyle begins.

She adds that while the teams did do many things right, their correct actions were overshadowed by what went wrong.

“…despite Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Abdul Rajak seeming to sincerely feel the anguish of the families, puzzlingly, the actual communications effort from others did not reflect it,” Argyle writes.

Drawing on her vast crisis communications experience, Argyle, who runs her own communications company Argyle and Associates, shares her advice for other communicators going forward.

Argyle’s Tips

  • Have a healthy respect for information voids

“The public and media will assume that, if you’re not talking, then you’re hiding something. It’s human nature,” says Argyle.

  • Learn from every disaster

“Disasters provide a number of very painful learning lessons that, in the end, can help improve crisis communications for future events. Without this pain and scrutiny, nothing gets better and officials make no changes.”

  • Don’t forget the importance of listening

“During the nearly dozen disasters I’ve managed, we often operated a communications center 24 hours a day, set up public hotlines so anyone could call in, day or night, arranged for ‘town hall’ meetings with the public, provided scheduled media conferences three to four times per day and issued written updates in between those conferences, if needed,” says Argyle.

“A good crisis communications team should be able to handle any disaster scenario,” – Argyle.

Argyle writes that good crisis communications should do the following:

  • Deliver critical information in a timely manner
  • Ease anxiety and fear
  • Comfort those who have been impacted by the event
  • Dispel rumors
  • Assist the media
  • Support the responders

Most importantly, Argyle notes, even if there is no information to report, there should still be ongoing communication.

“While careers may end for some officials, the families of flight MH370 have to live with an experience that has shattered their world and their trust,” writes Argyle.

“My heart goes out to each and every one of them.”

For the original article by Nancy Argyle, click here: