Criticism levelled at Boeing for its slow public response and apparent lack of empathy in the wake of the two fatal 737 Max crashes highlights the importance of reacting quickly and sensitively in the event of a crisis, European Business Aviation Association senior manager of communications Frederique Luca said today at EBACE during a panel discussion on crisis management.
Pointing to a recent Financial Times article in which "most of the criticism" of Boeing centred on its "lack of response and empathy", Luca stressed the need for companies to make empathy a cornerstone of their crisis management plans.
Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg made a videoed statement on 4 April – almost a month after the second fatal 737 Max crash to occur within five months – in which he said sorry to families of the victims of both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, and acknowledged the company’s responsibility to address risks posed by software issues with the aircraft.
Responding empathetically in a crisis, however, can result in wrangles with company lawyers, making it a difficult tightrope to walk.
EBAA strategic communications adviser Taunya Renson-Martin agreed that in a crisis, people are looking for "caring and empathy", but said lawyers "don't want you to do this because it might be a sign of accepting liability". Companies, therefore, "need to find a way to balance that".
EBAA has developed a crisis communications manual to help members ensure they have robust crisis management plans in place.