Rolls-Royce is so reluctant to put its case ...

Scanning articles from CityA.M., the FT, the Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian written on 5 November about the emergency landing of the Qantas Airbus 380, I read quotes from the following:

- Qantas
- Assorted passengers
- The Australian Transport Safety Bureau
- An analyst with BGC Partners
- A supplier to Rolls Royce
- An analyst from Agency Partners
- A professor at Cass Business School
- The head of research at HB Markets
Each of these disparate commentators gives their view of the incident with many speculating on the cause and providing insight into its implications for the engine manufacturer.

No Rolls Royce spokesperson is quoted directly in any of them.

Instead the BBC says that the company is “checking all the 380s in service”, CityA.M. says that the company is working with investigators, the FT reports that Rolls Royce “has no immediate comment” and instead quotes a “source close to the company” who says “Rolls Royce has been informed and will investigate as quickly as it can”.

Click on to Rolls Royce’s website and you find a clinical 129 word statement which also fails to shed any further light on the situation. Is this really the best way to protect a global reputation which is under serious attack (and a share price which is down around 10 per cent in two days)?

Surely not. Whilst Rolls Royce – the organisation most directly affected by last week’s incident – has sat tight-lipped on the sidelines, pretty much everyone else has filled the information vacuum with their views, most of them unhelpful to Rolls.

Contrast this with Qantas whose chief executive Alan Joyce began communicating almost immediately and taking decisive action by grounding the A380s pending an investigation. His words and actions will, I believe, protect Qantas from any reputational damage – he may even succeed in enhancing the airline’s long term reputation.

Meanwhile, the Rolls Royce communication strategy of non-engagement – with no director available to take questions or to explain things from the company’s point of view – leaves its reputation bobbing along on an ocean of uncertainty driven by the unpredictable currents of events and third party comment. It’s not a strategy that I would recommend.

Jonathan Hemus is a director of Insignia Communications and this article appears on the marketing industry web-site

... And how BP and Toyota miscommunicated their crises

WITH 11 men dead, a monumental environmental disaster, and the most powerful man in the world on your back, it is hard to imagine how poor communications could have made such a situation worse, writes Jonathan Hemus. But BP managed it.

With a spoof twitter feed satirising the crisis, the real BP took more than a week to issue its first tweet. Then chief executive Tony Hayward waded in with his gaffe about wanting his life back and the rest his history.

When the car giant Toyota was hit by its sticking accelerator problems, it seemed slow to react, mirroring the actions of other corporations which have gone into denial when unpleasant news surfaces; indeed Toyota’s behaviour epitomised a Japanese saying that goes: “If it stinks, then put a lid on it.”

Toyota allowed a crisis to emerge and then responded too slowly to effectively manage it.