Four Steps to Effective Crisis Communications

As part of a new e-book, Innovation Imperative, Cision Canada writer James Rubec looks at a sticky situation for Air Canada, and how the airline managed its message in the hours that followed. The incident occurred on March 29, 2015, when flight AC 624 missed the runway. “The passenger jet flew into Halifax, Nova Scotia with 133 passengers and five crew members. However, the plane missed the runway, smashing through an antenna that caused the landing gear to separate from the aircraft, and hit a power-line before skidding to a stop. The last encounter finally damaging the plane’s fuselage and engines,” writes Rubec.

The event was misreported by social and traditional media, leading to a ballooning communications situation. Rubec talked to John Reber, director of communications at Air Canada, who described the incident as follows: “A statement by a representative at the airport not affiliated with Air Canada called incident (crash) a ‘hard landing’.”

Due to the misinformation being shared in the first 24 hours after the incident, “the airline received 18,000 social mentions—a 1,800 per cent increase from its daily average of 1,000 prior to the crash,” writes Rubec. “With no serious injuries, the communication effort became damage control.”

To counter this issue, and others like it, Rubec recommends the following four tips:

1. Provide immediate response and manage the message that is being disseminated, he advises. Air Canada used a #AC624 hashtag on Twitter to ensure that coverage included messaging from the company. “It is better your voice than someone else’s,” writes Rubec.

2. Be consistent. Make sure that social media and the company website, as well as everyone on your team communicating with the public, is giving the same message, says Rubec.

3. Make sure a senior spokesperson is available on site for the media. “Empathy is the primary goal of communications at this point,” Reber told Rubec. “We wanted to show that we care and that we are here to help.” Air Canada had Klaus Goersch, executive vice president and chief operating officer, on-site to demonstrate that the company was being accountable to its higher levels.

4. Put your actions (and money) where your mouth is. The followup to an incident — whether it is communication with family members, financial reimbursement or delivery of lost items — is a crucial step, says Rubec.