Public Relations play an important role in handling of relation of individuals with that of its customers (Ihlen, 2007). PR helps maintain brand identity for a corporate and is an useful technique to maintain a good name and faith for the Company. MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing made a history in the aviation industry of being missing on 8th of March 2014 including all 239 passengers and crew. It’s strange to know that not particular evidence has emerged to finding the missing plane. It had been extremely difficult to find the aircraft inspite of using updated latest technology, multiband sonar system for the depth search in the sea as report issued by Dr. Stuart Minchin, Chief of Australian’s Environmental geosciences division. This case was discussed globally and families of the bereaved parties from Malaysian Airlines did not find any suitable solution to the crash that occurred. The Airline found it rather tough to handle the situation that they faced from the family members as they themselves did not have any answer (Nel, 2014). The scope of this report discusses the ideal ways and means that the Company should have adopted in handling the family members with certain analysis from the case and recommendations to the same.
There has been several controversy globally around the missing flight of Malaysian Airlines, there were kids and various members of families who were travelling for leisure and some for important business. On 8th of March 2014 Malaysian government announced initially the missing of MH370 aircraft. Here the reputation of MH370 was on stake due to mystery missing of plane which a Malaysian airline faced till date, due to immense pressure from friends, victims, relatives, and media and so on (Johansson, 2007). The situation was so tender and big tragedy that it can only be handled by high level professionals and management teams. As the news releases in media about confusion between missing of aircraft and hijacking the plane and situation got out of control. It was after ten months, when Malaysian airlines finally declares the aircraft crash and all the passengers and crew are dead , that relatives and friends who have lived with agony without being aware of their near ones are living or dead got into emotional shock. Malaysian airlines have handled the situation for 10 months in a professionalized way to keep the brand name as before. As soon as news of missing MH370, the team of expertise started search operation, the agency which was leading in search of missing Malaysian airlines flight MH370 was JACC (Joint Agency Coordination Centre) a company coordinating Australian government assistant. They started working on same coordinating with government of Malaysia with latest technology. James Grunig, who has expertise in PR over 20 years have provided various insights into PR theories and models. Todd Hunt also have proposed several models that help create advances in PR but his theories are better and more ethical to be used compared to other theories. There are fouyr distinct models of Grunig and Hunt’s as Press Agentry model, Public Information Model, Two Way Asymmetric Model and Two Way Symmetric Model (Grunig, 2009). Initially, Malaysian Airlines adopted Public Information Model to inform regarding the status of the aircraft to the audience. There were many contradicting views that led to public annoyance and hurting of sentiments leading to demand of truth from the Company which they were not arriving at. There were press conferences and media messages demanding clear communication regarding the aircraft and its missing people whereabouts. The Company in order to gain trusts from customers applied this model and theory to gain back trust of its customers.
Though PR provides hosts of theories and models yet there are no theories or tactics formulated that can help craft communication, strategies, plan, tactics or programs for handling bereaved customers who are facing loss of lives of dear and near ones.
Crises communication used during this type of incidents is the key to maintain the same repo with public like before. PR damage should be controlled and defined by Malaysian Airline by following measures. Quick and decisive action was a way forward to handle the case. Missing aircraft was such a crucial situation for the families, near and dear ones that before announcement in media the management should discuss the pros and cons internally (Wehmeier, 2009). Media has power to hike and suppress the news as its convenience, so news always spread faster when the incident is fresh, and as a result your response to the issue is more prompt. All this tactics proves that company is responsible, active and capable to control any situation. As soon as the official news flashed by government of Malaysia after long 10 months of missing MH370 aircraft, Malaysian Airline was ready to compensate to families after deep search for the missing Boeing MH370 and assuming people are dead. But the relatives of 239 missing passengers and crew did not accept such compensation against loss of life of dear ones. One of the suspicious relative created a scene at the headquarters of civil aviation for making official announcement via news to world before informing them.
Investigation by Australian expertise team of MH370 Malaysian airline bound for Beijing was the most expensive search in the history, but still not a single part of plane was found to prove its crash. Mystery is still unsolved and unanswerable to public as why the plane started and reached thousand miles above and as per assumption crashed into the Indian Ocean (Gilboa, 2008). Therefore Malaysia is still along with acceptation of its crash into Arabian Sea has continue criminal investigation.
Malaysian airline should make ready one specialized spoke person to act as a correct collective information to appear before media channels as company person and suspicious. The Company initially maintained press conferences and communication which was one way. This attitude of the Company was disliked by many individuals who have lost dear ones of their family members. The most appropriate form of communication or PR handling technique that the Company could have adopted is a two way communication. The company should have handled each and every passenger one by one and listened to their queries and problems. Even there is a strategy to control and take sympathy from public created from internal source like company staff or airport authorities who are involved in such crises to act supporter after an incident (L'Etang, 2009). Incidents makes public violent and shocked and afraid psychologically which has to vanish through support and by giving proper treatment. The case of the Company was regarded and handled in utmost state of confusion as there were several searches made and other investigation techniques carried out. But the Company did their level best to find out solution to the answers that the people were facing and wanted to handle them with utmost care and the lifelong repute of the Company was in danger.
The case of the plane crash is deemed to have been dealt with utmost negligence. After 10 months long survey by Australian Environmental geosciences division, Malaysian airlines has finally announced the death of all passengers and crew and ready to pay compensation with immediate proceedings to families. Aircraft was declared as crash with the sincere condolences to families, though there are no physical evidences till today for crash and criminal investigations. Much more care should have been taken while handling the families and maintaining communication with the family members. The incident and later the handling of PR made the relationship of the customers with the Company worse in the history of mankind.
Malaysian Airlines should have adopted a two way communication and targeted at assurance to its customers. While the bereaved families were already in a state of grief, they were further grieved by the way and tactics that the Company indulged in handling them. The Company should have adopted a ethical mode of PR technique by listening to the customers and their problems as well as challenges. This world has enable the Company as well as members of the family overcome the situation.
Gilboa, E. 2008. Searching for a theory of public diplomacy. . The annals of the American academy of political and social science, 55-77.
Grunig, J. E. 2009. Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation. PRism, 1-19.
Ihlen, Ø. &. 2007. How public relations works: Theoretical roots and public relations perspectives. Public Relations Review, 243-248.
Johansson, C. 2007. Goffman's sociology: An inspiring resource for developing public relations theory. Public Relations Review, 275-280.
L'Etang, J. 2009. Public relations and diplomacy in a globalized world: An issue of public communication. American Behavioral Scientist, 607-626.
Nel, P. 2014. The two Malaysia Airlines disasters in 2014: Lessons for airline management in a global context.
Wehmeier, S. 2009. Out of the fog and into the future: Directions of public relations, theory building, research, and practice. Canadian Journal of Communication, 265.
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