When any organisation faces a crisis, the response strategy is crucial to minimising reputational damage and gaining favourable influence over public discourse. However, the right communications approach often depends on multiple factors; the scale of the crisis, the stakeholders affected, and the national culture of the target audience.
Like all cultures, Thailand has specific nuances that impact how companies react to crises.
The blame game
The notion of ‘saving face’ is one Thailand has in common with many other Asian cultures. The basis of saving face is a strong urge to protect one’s dignity or reputation and avoid humiliation, especially in unfortunate incidents.
Consequently, when a crisis hits, Thai execs are more likely to make either an internal subordinate or an external party the scapegoat rather than acknowledging responsibility or issuing an apology themselves.
The case of THAI Airways
In 2013, THAI Airways found itself in the limelight after fourteen passengers were injured when an airplane failed to land correctly at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and skid off the runway. However, the headlines were largely caused by the decision to cover the corporate logo and name on the Airbus in question with black paint immediately after the incident.
THAI personnel said that Star Alliance, the network that THAI belongs to, recommended the act of deidentifying its airplanes after an accident to protect the brand and Alliance itself. However, Star Alliance disputed this claim, and THAI had to issue another statement specifying that painting the corporate logo and name out was its own initiative.
The culture of avoiding uncertainty
Thais are often extremely uncomfortable with ambiguous or uncertain situations, so they are more likely to make rash decisions in the face of a crisis. In an attempt to regain control in unfavourable situations, companies in Thailand can sometimes jump to conclusions and fail to deliver an effective response without thorough investigation and analysis.
When it comes to protecting brand reputation, a crisis response that is not carefully considered can be ineffective at best, and at worst, it can do even more harm than the crisis itself.
This can be a significant mistake in Thailand because the Thai public does not forgive and forget easily; Buddhist teachings encourage doing good, avoiding bad, and keeping a peaceful mind, but many Thais also grow up believing that what goes around comes around. Even if a Thai national says how a company handled a particular crisis was ok (mai pen rai), they may not mean it, as many believe giving positive comments rather than criticisms will bring them good fortune.
If managed well, a crisis presents an opportunity to retain and even enhance your stakeholder loyalty. However, blaming, avoiding accountability, or jumping to conclusions is rarely conducive to achieving positive outcomes.
At Midas PR, we are experts in defending your reputation and responding to media scrutiny as soon as a crisis strikes. If you want to react with a timely and comprehensive crisis management plan, contact us for a consultation by visiting www.midas-pr.com or email us directly. If it’s urgent, our English-speaking consultant is available 24/7 on +66 86 044 2145