Asiana Airlines - Arthur W. Page Society

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The Need
For
Cultural
Intelligence
Asiana Airlines’ response to the Crash
Landing of Flight 214
History
Company Overview:
Founded: February 17, 1988
Current President & C.E.O.: Kim Soo-Cheon
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Parent Company: Kumho Asiana group/
“Kumho Chaebol”
Mission: “Uncompromising Safety”
Awards:
◦ 2012 Business Traveler “Best Overall Airline in the World”
◦ 2010 Skytrax “Airline of the Year”
History
Past Crises:
 1993 plane crashed in poor weather while
approaching Mokpo airport in South Korea
killing 68
 July 2011, a cargo plane - a Boeing 747-400F
- slammed into the East China Sea en route
to China killing the only two people on
board
Asiana has not experienced a fatal crash in the
western hemisphere.
All Eyes on Asiana Airlines


11:27 a.m. on July 6, 2013
291 passengers
3 fatalities
◦ Two during crash
◦ One from fire truck

Over 180 injured
What media channel do you think
viewers turned to as their
immediate source of information
immediately following the crash?
Social Media
Social Media Frenzy #SFOcrash
Journalists and viewers go to social media for answers

First witness post: within a
minute of crash

First Survivor Post: Less than 3
hours after crash
What happened?
(Source: The Huffington Post)
S
T
A
K
E
H
O
L
D
E
R
Communication to Media and
General Public



1 p.m. – Boeing is first
company to respond
3:50 p.m. – Asiana
responds via Twitter
7hrs after flight – 1st
press release
 5 in total by July 13th

No response to
comments or media
questions
 Turned a blind eye

Plan for pilot training
stated but no action
S
T
A
K
E
H
O
L
D
E
R
Communication to
Victims/Families/Employees





3 days to dispatch CEO to
apologize and go to SFO
Denies support of crisis
team to manage questions
Automated reservation #
created but fails= more
emergency hotline
numbers
Reliance on United
Continental Holdings
Not much praise or
information on employees
besides initial tweet
 Statements defending pilots’
experience
“My deepest condolences go out
to the grieving family and loved
ones of this passenger and to all
those who have been affected by
this regretful situation. We will
devote all attention and efforts to
support the families of the victims
and expedited recoveries for the
other injured passenger.”
(Source: Asiana CEO)
US Response to crisis
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
General Trends
Lack of Timeliness
Lack of Responses
Social media
engagement
increase
Lack of social
media response
Families sue airline
Asiana’s response in Korea
Several public apologies and news conferences in
Korea.
 Issued few statements and offered minimal
responses to U.S. audience.
 Threat to sue KTVU for on-air gaffe of racial prank

Asiana Airlines blamed KTVU-TV and
the NTSB for the false pilot report,
stating that it "badly damaged" the
reputation of the airline and its pilots.
Do you agree?
Asiana’s response in Korea

Attempts to silence passengers
◦ Asiana reportedly instructed passengers not to speak
with media.

Asiana Airlines declined offers from U.S.
communication companies to help deliver their
messages stateside.
“It’s not the proper time to manage the company’s image.”
(Source: Asiana representative in Korea, when asked about the company’s response)
Cross Cultural Communication
Does Asiana Airlines need a stronger
“Cultural Intelligence?”
The
ability to recognize and comprehend different
beliefs, practices, attitudes, and behaviors of a group
and then apply that certain cultural knowledge to attain your
goals - whether those goals are political, business or
otherwise.
South Korean
corporate culture
“chaebol”
culture
Impact
Financial Impact
Asiana Airlines’ stock
price dropped by
◦ 5.8% within a day
◦ 6.6% within a month
◦ All time low on April
12, 2013
Struggling
footing
to regain
Impact
Regaining trust.
Asiana Airlines must earn back mission statement:
“uncompromising safety.”
Restoring credibility.
Page principles
1.) Tell the truth
Transparency with key stakeholders is vital to the success of
an organization. It helps build credibility and reinforces trust
within the organization. While Asiana Airlines’ always told
the truth, the lack of timeliness made it seem as if the
airlines was hiding something. The fact that the airlines
would not meet with media spokespeople only added to this
assumption. The messages from the airlines came off as
rhetorical. The airline was perceived as unprepared and
unsure of its actions even though the airlines’ message was
consistent. The perceived failure to be transparent with key
publics translated into a loss of credibility and in the long
run, a loss of stock price.
Page principles
2.) Prove it with Action
You can say something as much as you want, but actions
speak louder than words. From the start, the airlines
communication was very one dimensional. With that, the
airlines response lacked timeliness. While the messages
were consistent, the messages sounded generic and were
direct repeats from the press releases. In addition to this,
besides a brief statement from the CEO stating he plans
to improve pilot training, no actual action has taken place
to insure the safety of the crew and passengers. By U.S.
standards, the airlines failed to prove it with action.
Page principles
3.) Listen to the Customer
Asiana Airlines’ failed to meet the needs of all of its
stakeholders. Based on U.S. norms, Asiana Airlines was not
quick to understand what its listeners wanted or how they felt
about the crash. What were the needs of the stakeholders in
the aftermath of the tragedy? The primary need was providing
a means to get updates about the crash and support for the
passengers. Complaints from victims went left un-responded
too. The company did not consistently provide real-time
updates even as people requested more. As thousands posted
questions on social media, the company did not respond to any
of the questions or provide reassurance about the situation.
The reliance on one-sided communication tarnished the
airlines reputation and credibility. Creating some type of FAQ
about the commonly asked concerns would have helped to
ease the worries of some.
Page principles
4.) Manage for tomorrow.
Asiana Airlines failed to do this. The airlines neglected to
anticipate public reaction to such a crash and the response
to the crash. The opportunity to respond about any potential
crash does not come about suddenly. Crashes are the first
and foremost important thing passengers worry about when
flying. Preparing for such a response, should have come
easier. Asiana Airlines, being a leading international airline,
had the time to do research and to realize the importance of
sensitivity when it comes to global communication. Preplanned crisis communication responses that incorporated
global and local trends and norms would have saved the
airlines such backlash. It would have also made the support
services offered to passengers and crew run smoother.
Page principles
5.) Conduct public relations as if the whole
company depends on it
Asiana Airlines was one-sided in their public relation
efforts. They even refused outside crisis communication
assistance when it was offered by outside sources. They
have a strong belief in internal communications; however,
this does not take the entire company into account
because Asiana makes more than half of its revenue from
overseas flights. Public relations professionals should be
capable of handling a wide of corporate communication
activities. This was not exemplified from Asiana in the
aftermath of the crash of flight 214.
Page principles
6.) Realize the company’s true character is
expressed by its people
Asiana Airlines supported their employees after the
crash. One of the first press conferences help of Seoul
defended the pilots. In South Korean corporate culture,
or chaebol culture, employees may be inclined to defend
and remain loyal to their employers. However, it’s the
corporations responsibility to uphold the relationship
between quality and trust.
Page principles
7.) Remain calm, patient, and good-humored
In the case of Asiana’s response after the crash, the
media wanted more of a stir from the arline. So in
that respect, Asiana did keep a cool head when
crises erupted. The efforts from the airline
executives were calm and even-keeled. However,
effective corporate communications requires dialog
and conversations during difficult times, which
Asiana failed to do.





Know your audience: be culturally sensitive
and possess cultural intelligence when
communicating to your key audiences
Engage in two-way communications with all
stakeholders – internal, external, and globally
Timing is crucial
Do no under estimate the power of social
media
Be prepared
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