MH370 Malaysia Airlines (MAS) failed to assert itself as the dominant source of comprehensive information on the missing flight MH370 at the beginning stages of its disappearance, say several public relations and media practitioners.
This also led to its failure to contain all sorts of speculations and rumours, some of which went viral on the Internet.
Former media, issues and crisis management manager S Anbarasu ( right ) said MAS failed to deliver information swiftly as it had to ensure other agencies were prepared and took on the first announcement of the plane’s disappearance.
At that time, he said, MAS lacked support from other agencies and caused MAS to announce only at 7.30am, that is six hours after the incident.
“At that point of time, you have to disseminate information quickly, even though it is plenty, and you also have to ensure that you will follow this up tightly,” he said.
Anbarasu was speaking at a forum 'Flight 370 - Lessons in Crisis Communication' at Universiti Malaya (UM) yesterday.
Other panellists included The Malaysian Insider chief executive officer and editor Jahabar Sadiq, media practitioner Khoo Hsu Chuang, UM senior lecturer Dr KS Balakrishnan and social media strategist Julian Matthews.
Some 100 participants were seen observing a moment of silence for the ill-fated flight before starting the forum.
For Anbarasu, who had served in MAS's communication lines for 18 years, another main problem the airline had trouble handling was staff who leaked out in-house sources and data to the media.
That explained why the foreign media managed to break news - relevant and otherwise - on the missing aircraft.
He added that as MH370's disappearance is unprecedented, nobody stepped up immediately to take charge of the situation, especially MAS chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, who appeared tight-lipped.
“Many are saying something (about the crisis) but not the CEO, he is very subdued and he has nothing much to say,” Anbarasu lamented.
At the early stages, Ahmad Jauhari was chided for not being proactive enough in handling the crisis and faced calls to step down.
Poor social media management
On social media management, Julian ( right ) said MAS was poorer compared to its rival, low-cost carrier AirAsia, failing to issue brief statements on Twitter swiftly right after air control communication with the aircraft was lost at around 2.41am.
“It took six hours for MAS to issue the first statement at 7.24am, but the first tweet appeared at 8.13am...
"They spent almost 50 minutes to type 140 characters out and I think that's a bit slow,” he said, adding that there were also zero tweets from MAS following the first day, between April 7 and 12.
“As for the passenger manifest, it has been changed repeatedly without acknowledging...there is no Austrian and no Italian on the plane, but (the manifest) has not changed till today,” he complained.
During the forum while questions such as whether an apology is needed were being discussed, Jahabar ( right ) opined that no one needs to apologise for the unforeseen incident, except for the discrepancies in disclosing MH370's last radio communication.
The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has confirmed that MH370's last radio communication was "Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero", not "All right, good night" as was earlier reported.