Crisis Response: You must be swift, you must be decisive, but above all, you must be accurate

In the weeks following the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash, Lufthansa Group and its Chief Executive Carsten Spohr faced tremendous pressure as they crafted messaging for customers, employees, investors and the general public. PR practitioners (myself included) have closely observed the company’s response strategy unfold. One of the biggest twists came in late March, when Lufthansa said it knew of the pilot’s depression diagnosis, but did not prevent him from working.

The recent history of flight disasters underscores the critical need for airlines to deploy swift and decisive crisis communication, but not at the expense of accuracy.

My evaluation of Lufthansa’s crisis response aligns most closely with that of Scott Farrell, president of global corporate communication for Golin, who is quoted in this Wall Street Journal article:

Mr. Spohr deserves credit for his timely appearance before the media, and his genuine and heartfelt comments. However, in the need to be timely he became victim to a phenomenon we call ‘the fog of crisis’…Companies in the early hours of a crisis are best off telling media and others only what they know, and that they’re in the process of gathering facts and information rather than speculating. In a crisis, credibility is king and this is the best way to preserve that valuable asset.

Photo credit: “D-AKNF A319 Germanwings” by Mark Harkin licensed under CC 2.0 


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