“What really happened to the missing Malaysia Airline plane?” This the alarming question faced by authorities at the moment. I mean an aircraft cannot just disappear and not be found even after two months of intense searching.
The quest to find the plane that vanished on 8 March 2014 on its way to Beijing, from Kuala Lumpur, has involved a search of nearly 4.64 million square kilometers of sea and utilized more than 33 search flights.
When thinking about how this issue was initially handled, you would trust that Malaysia Airlines have learnt their lesson and would think things through before communicating the developments of this aviation mystery moving forward.
As a communicator I believe the next phase of the search should not have been announced until search developments were positive and promising. The second phase of the search will concentrate on an increased undersea examination of a 60 000 square kilometre patch of seafloor in the Indian Ocean. The nature of the intensified search raises so many eyebrows leaving the families of the passengers asking questions such as: Why did Malaysia Airlines not deploy the submarines together with the aircrafts when the search began? Can we trust that these so called experts know what they are doing?
One could argue that the Airline has an obligation to communicate and is pressured to deliver news of somewhat a positive nature to keep the families of the passengers hopeful.
The challenge here is that it is just not the families of all on board the flight who are concerned, but there are other constituencies, including industry thought leaders and experts, who will have a say on how this disaster unfolds.
Brad deYoung who is a professor of oceanography at the memorial University in St Johs, Canada made the following comment, “The fact that they haven’t found anything after two months in this circumstance isn’t surprising”. “I think the biggest challenge is they really don’t have a good fix on where [MH370] ended,” commented Mary Schiavo, aviation analyst and former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “They certainly won’t find it in the next couple weeks or couple months,” Schiavo concluded.
All of these comments will kill the little hope the concerned families had, although they were not intended to do so.
I urge all communicators and top management of the corporate world to consider the consequences of their communication actions before they implement.