Visiting Kuala Lumpur this week to speak on crisis communications at a PR conference I was struck by the extent to which the MH370 and MH17 disasters hung in the air like one of the capital’s putrid summer smogs.
Why, many continue to wonder, were the airline and government not better prepared?
I was fortunate to spend time with the (local Chinese-Malaysian) head of marketing at a well-known international cosmetics brand who told me that the reason the official response to MH370 left much to be desired is as much cultural and societal as political and operational.
- For one, she said, Malaysians place great importance on maintaining ‘face’ and, despite or perhaps because of the many ethnic and religious schisms in the country, will do much to avoid conflict and shame and ensure the outward appearance of a harmonious society.
- Second, Malaysians are a naturally garrulous people but can be poor listeners.
- Third, Malaysians generally live for the moment and few prepare ahead, something perhaps evident in the very high levels of household debt in the country.
Being in the moment can bring much-needed perspective to a crisis. However thorough preparation makes mindfulness all the more powerful.
Here’s my presentation:
And here’s my take on Malaysia Airline’s response to MH370.