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BLOG: Crisis Communication: Lessons from the Japan Earthquake

Zafar Anjum | March 28, 2011
What do you do when you are in the midst of a crisis? Do you talk or do you keep mum?

It's been more than two weeks since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami rocked eastern Japan on March 11 (3/11). While it was national catastrophe for Japan and the country is still suffering a humanitarian crisis, power shortages and radiation scare, the effects of the tragedy are being felt worldwide.

Even though a slow recovery among the country's technology manufacturers has begun, it could be several months before things start to normalize-impacting supply chains across the world.

My mind goes to the week after the tsunami and how global companies reacted to the crisis in Japan. While many companies came out with strategies to help out the victims of the crisis, a lot of them kept mum. They didn't say anything either about their operations in Japan or their employees who were exposed to the dangers of radiation on top of dislocation or trauma emanating from such an unprecedented natural disaster.

The question is: when faced with a Japan-like crisis, what should companies do? Should they share updates with the public or should they keep their mouths shut?

I think in an age when the chatter on social networks is on 24/7, it is unwise of companies not to communicate during such crises. Here are some examples of tech companies that stepped up to the plate in the aftermath of 3/11.

Exemplary companies: Sony, Skype, HCL and Telstra International

Japan Earthquake

I remember Japanese electronics giant Sony being one of the first companies to communicate about its response to the crisis. Sony said it airlifted emergency supplies by helicopter to hundreds of employees stuck at a Blu-ray Disc factory in Miyagi, Japan, on Saturday (12 March), a day after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake sent a massive tsunami rolling through the facility.

On 16th of March, Telstra International, global arm of Australian telco Telstra Corporation, sent us a message-sharing with us how it was handling the crisis in Japan: "As a result of Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, there have been multiple cable breaks and damage to communications infrastructure in the vicinity. Telstra is extremely satisfied with its network performance throughout these events. Telstra's network remained operational in and out of Japan, although there was some minimal infrastructure and service disruption. All services have been fully restored since Tuesday, March 15."

The message further said that all employees and their families based in the Telstra Japan office were safe and accounted for.

The telco also said that it will not be evacuating employees from their Tokyo office. It said: "Their safety is of the utmost importance to us, however our employees are Japanese local residents and they choose to be with their family and friends at this time. We are working closely with the local management team to monitor the situation and we will continue to support our employees throughout this extremely difficult time." 


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