Boeing has already faced some major turbulence in 2013 — and it’s only Feburary.
The world’s largest aircraft manufacturer’s latest problem came in a small package Jan. 7 when a lithium ion battery on board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire while parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport causing the grounding of all 50 of the 787s worldwide.
With its international reputation at stake, the company had two choices in addressing this potential crisis: Be proactive or reactive to the incident.
As any major company would do, Boeing seemed to weigh their options before diving into the public relations fire.
If they employed proactive communication, a point person would deal with the media after being briefed on exactly what bottled responses were appropriate to dole igout to both the national and international media.
Or the company could choose to handle the problem with a reactive stance, remaining tight-lipped and only releasing official statements to certain media upon inquiry.
It is an extreme understatement to say that the team members working at the Boeing communications office are pure public relations geniuses.
Not only were they proactive, but they mixed in their own brand of reactiveness as well.
Jan. 8, a day after the blaze in Boston, 787 communication representative Lori Gunter remained proactive releasing this statement via a press release.
“As is standard practice within the industry, it would be premature to discuss additional details at this stage as the investigation is ongoing,” following that up with, “Boeing is cooperating with the NTSB in the investigation of this incident. Before providing more detail, we will give our technical teams the time they need to do a thorough job and ensure we are dealing with facts, not speculation.”
This was clearly a PR tactic to demonstrate that Boeing was aware of the situation, but wanted to avoid a comment that they might need to retract later.
“The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily. Its in-service performance is on par with the industry’s best-ever introduction into service – the Boeing 777. Like the 777, at 15 months of service, we are seeing the 787’s fleet wide dispatch reliability well above 90 percent.
More than a year ago, the 787 completed the most robust and rigorous certification process in the history of the FAA. We remain fully confident in the airplane’s design and production system.”
When the aircraft manufacturer decided to jump in full-fledged on the issue, they ensured all its bases were covered.
The company issued the first two statements (via PR Newswire) ensuring they were circulated to media outlets far and wide. Additionally, the company posted its latest statements on its U.S. and U.K. home pages and then released an update to the safety review now underway in the U.S. and Japan, according to PR Daily.
“Boeing continues to assist the NTSB and the other government agencies in the U.S. and Japan responsible for investigating two recent 787 incidents. The company has formed teams consisting of hundreds of engineering and technical experts who are working around the clock with the sole focus of resolving the issue and returning the 787 fleet to flight status. We are working this issue tirelessly in cooperation with our customers and the appropriate regulatory and investigative authorities. The safety of passengers and crew members who fly aboard Boeing airplanes is our highest priority.”
Stating again that because of investigative protocol the company could not comment any further, but are eager to see the result of these investigations and rectify any issue that the jetliners and batteries may posses.
The company succeeded in satisfying the media at that point as well as its public stakeholders by taking to the most overarching channel possible — social media.
Even here, Boeing has demonstrated a well-thought-out strategy releasing tweets and posting updates on the homepage of their site that both acknowledge the issue and highlight positive features of the Dreamliner.
For now, despite superior efforts by this communications team, they are left waiting for the green light to take off, hoping the Dreamliner can once again fly high and free of problems.
With 787 flights in limbo, what will it mean for the company? Will it need to launch a crisis control plan for the model (and even possibly the rest of its models)? Where does the PR team go from here? What, if anything, can Boeing do while it waits for the FAA’s findings?