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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?

The company also announced free telephone calls and text messages for customers (in Australia and Japan) wishing to check on family and friends affected by the disaster.

On 17th of March, Skype sent us a press release: "Over the last few days, we've been watching and listening to reports from around the world about the ways people are using Skype to communicate during this time of crisis in Japan. We're fortunate to be able to report that all of our Japan-based employees and their families are safe, and we're also incredibly fortunate to be among the providers of technology which help people stay in touch during times of need, even when other means aren't available."

"Our hearts go out to all of those of you who have been affected by this disaster, and we're taking two steps to help people across Japan communicate: Providing free WiFi at hotspots throughout Japan with Skype Access; and providing all of our Japanese customers with a ¥80 Skype Credit voucher, worth a call of more than 25 minutes to a landline phone in Japan (and to some other countries such as China and the USA) or to send text messages directly from Skype."

On the same day, I was also pleased to receive a communication from Indian IT services company, HCL Technologies whose famous motto is 'Employees first, customers second': "HCL Technologies is deeply saddened by the natural calamity and loss of lives in Japan and offers its heartfelt prayers and support to this resilient nation.

"Currently all HCL employees on ground there are safe. The HCL senior leadership is in touch with the leadership team in Japan and monitoring the situation closely. In the next few days, a senior level delegation from India will be travelling to Japan to ensure on-ground support. This delegation will be holding an Open House for all employees at relevant locations in Japan."

As the news came pouring forth, we came to know that HCL Technologies evacuated 70 per cent of its staff and their families from Japan.

After the earthquake, HCL offered its employees three options: they could work from home, they could work out of an alternate location like Osaka, China, Singapore or India on Japan timings, or they could proceed on leave in consultation with their manager and spend time with their families inside or outside Japan. Around 170 of HCL's Japan employees chose the last option.

This is what is called walk the talk (I'm referring to HCL's philosophy of 'employees first').

By sharing their concerns with the media and the public at large, these companies were setting an example. Not only they were communicating at a time of uncertainty and fear but their actions reflected the ethos of the Internet age: that we care about you and we can talk about it with complete honesty.


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