Free «Public Relations Scenario Analysis» Essay Sample

Summary of the Public Relations Situation

In a given scenario, the captain of American Airlines passenger aircrafts suffered a heart attack, as the airplane was preparing to land. Fortunately, the co-pilot landed the airplane safely; the captain was taken to the hospital immediately. There is a possibility that passengers noticed ambulance, arriving right after landing and made comments to the press soon after leaving the aircraft. Therefore, the situation and related speculations may be reported in a press within the next 24 hours in a negative light, claiming that traveling with the company is not safe. Although, the situation has not surfaced in the media yet, and the company management may want to avoid making it public, the analysis of incident management strategies demonstrates that taking a proactive stance by being open to media inquiries, preparing a press release and investigating the situation with the goal of presenting it in a positive light would be the right way to manage corporate reputation and demonstrate integrity and commitment to high safety standards.

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As a result of possible media attention, the company’s safety-related policies may be publicly criticized. Such public criticism in media, coupled with safety concerns for the wellbeing of passengers, may lead to shaping a negative public image of American Airlines as unreliable or irresponsible company that disregards safety measures. Consequently, poor reputation may result in declining sales and poor profitability. In a given scenario, the company can take one of the three courses of actions.

Approach #1: Avoidance of Disclosing Information

The first approach would be not to disclose any of the incident-related information and refrain from bringing up the issue to media and public attention in hopes that the incident will go unnoticed and in an effort to detract any negative attention or media coverage. This option implies ignoring or denying any situation-related information that may surface in media to avoid unwanted attention and insinuations.

Approach #2: Limited Involvement with Media

The second course of action would involve preparing a fast and brief press release for immediate discharge, stating that the captain was taken to the hospital but that the plane landed safely, offering no other details. This option implies that the company would act proactively at the beginning phase of the incident response and management, hoping that the situation will resolve in some way. All the following actions (should they be necessary) are going to be reactive and contingent on reactions to the incident in media.

Approach #3: Applying Proactive Crisis Management Response Plan

The third approach would involve taking comprehensive proactive measures to address public concerns, collaborate with media and develop and follow an incident management plan to administer corporate reputation effectively. Coombs (2014) writes that an effective response to crisis management demands an updated crisis management plan. He also explains that such a plan should be based on best crisis preparation practices and should include names of properly trained incident management team members and a spokesperson, drafts of crisis statements for media, tips on crisis communication, reputation repair strategies, and post-crisis actions (Coombs, 2014). Of the three discussed resolutions for incident management, the third option seems the most viable public relations scenario. The following section provides an assessment of each resolution and implications that taking each course may have on a company’s reputation, sales, and profitability.

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Implications of Using Different Approaches on Business Decision Making

Implications of the Approach #1: Avoidance of Disclosing Information

The first identified approach is based on avoiding disclosure of the incident-related information, refraining from bringing up the issue to media and public attention, hoping that the incident will go unnoticed as a way of preventing negative media coverage. This option consequently required ignoring or denying any incident-related information that may surface in media to avoid unwanted attention and speculations regarding the issue. The advantage of this approach is that it seems the most cost-effective in the short-term perspective.

However, it has some drawbacks. For example, from Hooker’s (2011) point of view, covering facts by the company may be an indicator of poor adherence to business ethics and a counterproductive decision in a long-term perspective. Furthermore, this option disregards the significant role that media may play in the current situation. Happer and Philo (2013) claim that media plays a central role in informing the public and shaping public opinion. Authors write that media shape public debates in terms of highlighting particular subjects, focusing public interest, and setting agendas. Therefore, the company’s failure to publicize its official position and a statement via engaging media and issuing a press release may be harmful to business reputation.

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For example, in the absence of statement by American Airlines, passengers and news outlets may misinterpret the incident and publish information that presents the company in a negative light. Furthermore, avoiding contact with media may seem as if a company has something to hide or purposely hides the information (Young & Flowers, 2012). Therefore, using this approach may have the following implications for American Airlines. First, there is a possibility of a negative coverage in media and social networks. Second, media may contribute to forming a negative image of American Airlines, as the company the compromises safety of passengers and covers its mistakes, undermining trust of current and potential customers. Finally, as a result, sales may decline, affecting profitability negatively.

Implications of the Approach #2: Limited Involvement with Media

The second course of action limits proactive actions to prepare a fast and brief press release for immediate release with few factual details. Also, the company should make a promise to send a top executive to investigate circumstances of an accident and ensure that similar situations do not reoccur. No other actions or decision making are necessary, since all the following measures are going to be reactive in nature and contingent on how the situation develops. There are several positive and negative implications of choosing this course of actions. Benefits of this approach are little investment of time, effort, and resources. Additionally, this course of action presents the company, as an organization that acknowledges the incident and gets involved to ensure the safety of its passengers.

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However, there are some drawbacks too. First, in a hypothetical scenario, when media and social networks respond negatively to the incidents and demand more information after press release is issued, the company is going to be in a defensive position and a step behind the developing events. Second, the absence of a clear strategy designed to respond to critical events may make the company adopt a reactive stance to safety concerns instead of a proactive one and such that earns public trust. Third, inadequate reaction of a company to an incident may be misinterpreted and lead to the lack of trust, affecting sales negatively. Finally, limited response does not allow the company to exploit the situation to its advantage to build trust with customers and present itself, as a responsible aircraft carrier.

Implications of the Approach #3: Applying Proactive Crisis Management and Response Plan

The negative implications of this option (proactive measures to address public concerns, collaborate with media and develop and follow an incident/crisis management plan) are the need to invest time, efforts, manpower, and resources in development of a crisis management and response plan. However, there are several important and significant advantages of adopting this approach. First, it puts the company in the offensive position, instead of defensive. Second, taking a proactive stance will enable the company to diffuse any tensions associated with the incident and exploit it to its advantage to build a good reputation with customers. Third, developing a plan will help to create a blueprint for possible crises in future. Fourth, this option will prevent any losses in sales and revenues. Finally, choosing this course of actions will emphasize the company’s concern for safety and transparency and contribute to a good rapport with customers. Therefore, this option seems the most appropriate and beneficial for American Airlines.

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Details and Reasons of Choosing Approach #3 and Its Influence on Business Results

In order to resolve the incident, approach #3 seems the most viable for several reasons. First, it facilitates building trust between the company and customers. Ingram, LaForge, Avila, Schwepker, and Williams (2015) state that trust is positively associated with higher sales. Therefore, the third approach offers the most potential for boosting sales. Second, since this approach improves both reputation and sales, its adoption fits well with Hooker’s (2011) emphasis on ethical behavior as a rational choice in business decision making. Furthermore, Hayes and Smuddle (2015) claim that incidents should be resolved by applying pragmatic communication and management strategies. In the light of their claim, approach #3 appears a beneficial combination of pragmatic management and communication. Besides, such positive business results as building strong reputation and driving sales up, another reason for choosing this option is that it adheres the best, described by Young and Flowers (2012), principles of public relations management, such as policy development and process approach, partnership with public, pre-event planning, integrity and openness, collaboration with credible sources, and sending a message of self-efficacy.

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Recommended by Coombs (2014) course of action within the framework of Approach #3 includes:

  1. Developing updated crisis management plan
  2. Having adequately trained designated crisis management team
  3. Conducting an exercise to test a plan and a team
  4. Preparing drafts of crisis management messages and press releases
  5. Adopting initial response best practices, such as:
    • Issuing initial response within first hours
    • Checking all the facts
    • Being consistent
    • Making public safety a main priority
    • Using all the available communication strategies (traditional media and social networks)
    • Expressing concern.
  6. Identifying reputation repair strategy
  7. Handling post-crisis issues.

Finally, it should be noted that taking into consideration involvement and investments, it takes to execute Approach #3 plan of action (Crisis Management and Response Plan), there are minimal chances that this approach may turn out to be a wrong one for the situation, since its adoption will positively impact the company’s crisis/incident management preparedness. Finally, two potentially negative repercussions that may be identified are high costs and drawing unnecessary attention to the incident in the case that neither passengers, nor media paid attention to it.

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