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Brands - Crisis Communications - Boeing

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Since the business management engineering design becomes more enhanced, complicated and more powerful everyday, the downfall of the big corporations are getting hard mostly left on big crisis.

Enron, Siemens, Volkswagen, BP, Facebook and many of a-likes (See the full list here) have been through hard times because of the “uncontrollable-foreseen” problems as well as Boeing, recently with the crash of two airplanes.

Boeing still publishing proud 737 Max text on its website.

Boeing still publishing proud 737 Max text on its website.

Unfortunately, there will possibly be more cases for communication department students in universities. And also there sits a big responsibility on the shoulders of the brand managers, communication directors, PR Agencies of these companies when such crisis occur.

There are so many lessons for brand communication of such instances. But it is undoubtedly Boeing Comms. team was not that successful handling the situation. (Read the Forbes article below)

All things a brand enthusiast can learn some good lessons.

See, without a single image on their website.

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Read the letter from Dennis Muilenburg to airlines, passengers and the aviation community:

We know lives depend on the work we do, and our teams embrace that responsibility with a deep sense of commitment every day. Our purpose at Boeing is to bring family, friends and loved ones together with our commercial airplanes—safely. The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning. Our hearts are heavy, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.

Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone. This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities. We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies. Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.

Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Our team is on-site with investigators to support the investigation and provide technical expertise. The Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau will determine when and how it’s appropriate to release additional details.

Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots. This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident. We’ve been working in full cooperation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board on all issues relating to both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines accidents since the Lion Air accident occurred in October last year.

Our entire team is devoted to the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support. I’ve dedicated my entire career to Boeing, working shoulder to shoulder with our amazing people and customers for more than three decades, and I personally share their deep sense of commitment. Recently, I spent time with our team members at our 737 production facility in Renton, Wash., and once again saw firsthand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies. The importance of our work demands the utmost integrity and excellence—that’s what I see in our team, and we’ll never rest in pursuit of it.  

Our mission is to connect people and nations, protect freedom, explore our world and the vastness of space, and inspire the next generation of aerospace dreamers and doers—and we’ll fulfill that mission only by upholding and living our values. That’s what safety means to us. Together, we’ll keep working to earn and keep the trust people have placed in Boeing.

Also read a Forbes article by Michael Goldstein

Human tragedy is a major part of the story of the Boeing 737 MAX. Some 189 people were killed on Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 in Indonesia. On March 10, 2019, the crash of Ethiopian Airways flight ET302 took 157 lives. Within less than six months, 346 people died in no-survivor accidents in Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In Ethiopia, empty coffins have been buried, and relatives have been told that positive identification of remains may take up to six months due to the force of the impact.

Investigations as to the cause of the crashes are ongoing, along with a frantic search for a technical “fix” that will get more than 350 737 MAX aircraft flying again. Debate about the responsibility of Boeing rages, along with questions about why the FAA was the world’s last holdout in grounding the jets. According to New York crisis communications expert Ronn Torossian, “Surely Boeing's team is concerned about the safety of their planes, but it doesn't look like it."

How the company responds to these issues can have very real effects on trust in its products, in sales of the 737 MAX as well as other aircraft (a negative “halo effect”) and on its stock price, which dropped more than 10% in the last week.

“Boeing is a case study in what not to do,” says Torossian, who runs a New York public relations company, 5WPR, whose specialty is providing crisis communications services. Clients include individuals, countries and Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi. He says, “A cardinal rule in crisis public relations is to guide the narrative before others guide it for you, and they have done the opposite. They have waited for others to tell the story."

“A cardinal rule in crisis public relations is to guide the narrative before others guide it for you, and they have done the opposite. They have waited for others to tell the story."

Just as important, Torossian believes Boeing’s behavior is giving the impression that “profits matter more than people’s lives.” He noted that rather than immediately grounding every MAX and “clearly addressing fearful customers, they lobbied President Trump about the plane's safety—a huge PR misstep.”