The dramatic events of recent days have led to a media frenzy and press leaks relayed by social networks. In this 'scoop hunt', airlines, investigators and politicians seem compelled to communicate in the quickest way possible. A difficult task in this
increasingly overhyped world. So, how can we best manage a communication crisis ? Dominique Wolton, Research Director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research ( CNRS ), and communication specialist gave us his analysis.
Dominique Wolton, Research Director, CNRS, and Communication Specialist :
"What can any actor do in a crisis in a world where overhyped rumours and information, spread extremely fast, that's the fundamental question for the future. The crash took place on the 24th., ( March ), immediately the media arrived, at the same time as the authorities, because there were so many victims, and also the politicians because they feared an attack. And pretty soon, there was a leak in the New York Times saying that this was perhaps not an attack, but maybe there was another explanation: suicide.
With that, for the company, it became even more complicated to handle, hence probably, their silence, because a suicide is out of the question in the logic of a serious airline like Lufthansa, with experienced pilots.
For those involved, who know very well that this would have uncontrollable high speed repercussions, it is this trade-off between the temptation of silence, and a situation of extreme pressure from the media, that is the major problem.
It’s clear that the first thing to do for anybody in the political, judicial, police or economic realms, that they should never rush to communicate, even if there is pressure from the media.
The truth takes months, sometimes years to surface. So public opinion should be borne in mind, contrary to what we think, in not rushing into a situation of continual one-upmanship of justifications and explanations of rumours.
In crisis communication, there is no way out. This is the tragedy of the event, and the event prevails, sweeping everything in its path aside. It's a tsunami, a crisis. But the problem is that formerly, it was only the politicians or those in the economic or public health domains who were the first to react. Nowadays, the first in, are the media.
The tragedy today, is the speed that information and rumours, in enormous quantities, spread via the social media, and which eventually become almost the information source of news channels. Channels which, in any case, follow the pace of networks that are increasingly fast because they are in competition, and which in turn, impose excessive speed on the conventional media.
The entire world cannot live at the speed of tweets, social networks, news channels and resulting competition of the various media between themselves. And if journalists are not the first to slow down, they will be the first victims.’’