As the investigation into Emirates Airlines flight EK521 continues to determine why the Boeing 777-300 caught fire on landing at Dubai International Airport yesterday, those working in high stakes industries and leadership roles should be taking notes from the airlines’ exceptional handling of its communications during this crisis.
An multi-award winning airline, Emirates ability to navigate through crisis to recovery and soon, back into business as usual has been an impressive display of how well planned crisis communications strategies can be delivered with leaders and teams who have been well prepared.
By turning their social media channels into an immediate crisis brand newsroom, Emirates established itself as an information authority on platforms that enabled them to communicate their trustworthiness and humility. This is a savvy move in retaining control over a narrative that could be quickly overrun by speculation and misinformation in the absence of strong leadership and appropriate information transparency.
Emirates handling of this crisis is a lesson for everyone in how to maintain consumer trust and effectively convey empathy, humility and authority in a high stakes environment.
Here are 5 key takeaways form their crisis response:
Emirates airlines communicated immediate action.
Emirates swift implementation of their organisational crisis communications plan was evident as flight EK521 sat wrecked and billowing smoke on the tarmac at Dubai International Airport. There was no delay in communicating known facts, and then continuing to update stakeholders through a well deployed series of Facebook updates, tweets and video.
Emirates airlines communicated precisely the information that was relevant to its stakeholders without delay.
No overarching statements about their organisational history or aviation safety record.
No lengthy press statements that were hard to find on their website.
Just straight up facts about the incident, the details they had available and what they are doing for their most important stakeholder: their passengers.
AND all this information was everywhere you’d expect it to be should you go looking for it.
Emirates airlines demonstrated consistent leadership throughout the crisis and now recovery period.
H.H Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group demonstrated consistent leadership by investing in the 24/7 news media cycle from the outset. By being the face of the organisation during a critical incident H.H Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum demonstrated timely corporate responsibility at a critical trust juncture for the company. H.H Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s delivery of high stakes leadership acumen should be a lesson for leaders in organisations around the world because it allowed Emirates to feed the 24/7 news media cycle with copy-link-play content. This is a testament to their appreciation of not only their audience and the news media but also the totality of the information domain.
— Emirates airline (@emirates) August 3, 2016
Emirates airlines consistently demonstrated crisis gravitas for their most important stakeholder: their passengers.
At the forefront of all information communicated during this crisis, Emirates has remained steadfastly committed to prioritising its attention and concern for those passengers and crew aboard EK521 and their families.
Emirates airlines had a thorough crisis communications plan in place and a team trained to deliver it.
It is evident from their polished, deliberate investiture in the use of social media to create a crisis brand newsroom that Emirates Executives and their staff had prepared strategically and trained tactically for organisational crisis.
Much of what you see in their statements, tweets and posts would have been words, talking points and statements pre-prepared for exactly this kind of incident. Apart from obtaining passenger manifests and flight details, very little leg-work needed to be done to produce this body of work leaving the communications and public relations team to concentrate on matters of passenger and crew safety and media relations.
Emirates understands what a bad day in their business looks like, and yesterday was very nearly a catastrophic example of the depth of their understanding of their organisational risks and the essentiality of planning for crisis communications. While all passengers and crew survived the incident with few injuries reported, in a sombre reminder of the risks first responders face when saving the lives of others, firefighter Jasim Issa Mohammed Hassan died during the aviation rescue operation.
In what is perhaps the most sombering lesson arising from this incident, is the dignified way Emirates and Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum have communicated this tragedy to the world. While the focus of the news media remains on the investigation into why the plane caught fire on landing along with stories of the passengers and crew who survived, time has been taken to remember firefighter Jasim Issa Mohammed Hassan as hero who died saving the lives of others.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, offered his condolences for the firefighter who was martyred while attempting to put out the fire.
“We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of firefighter Jasim Eisa Al Beloushi. May God grant his family and relatives solace and patience,” tweeted Shaikh Mohammad.
“As sad as we are over the passing of Jasim, we are also proud of our youths and their sacrifices while performing their duty in saving lives and rescuing people. The UAE has men that many generations can be proud of.”