THE BLOG

Communications Around Missing Flight MH370 Have Failed in More Than Ways Than One

19/03/2014 15:51 GMT | Updated 19/05/2014 10:59 BST

Where is missing flight MH370?

The million dollar question is being asked daily, by media, newscasters, politicians, aviation experts and millions of people around the world.

It is truly a global story, one of the most perplexing modern day mysteries we have seen.

Everyone has their own theory and these have moved along at a rapid pace since the 200-ton Boeing 777, along with 239 passengers and crew, simply vanished off the radar.

A terror attack. Pilot error. Mechanical malfunction. The jet was flown below 5,000ft after having its transponder switched off around the time the co-pilot signed off with the words: "Alright, goodnight."

The latest theory centres on gas filling the cockpit, while a sighting of a low jet over the Maldives appears to have been discounted.

If the investigation appears to be in a mess, we can in part blame PR error.

The Malaysian authorities have lurched from giving one briefing to another. Some of this may be in reaction to the families of the 239 on board demanding information. Those families are now threatening to go on hunger strike if they are not given concrete details.

The pressure has also been unrelenting from the world's media.

This, and the fact there doesn't seem to be one central giver of information, has been damaging to the messages coming out of the investigation.

There are far too many people in authority - such as the PM and Transport Minister - sharing the same platform. If you think about how media is handled for a conflict or full-scale war, Governments have one, maybe two central spokespeople.

This gives continuity, an air of assurance and authority, even if there is none behind the scenes.

One person is deployed to communicate until there is something concrete to say, and then the leaders emerge from their office to make announcements.

Some may say senior figures being front of shop is admirable. But the Malaysians have done this everyday - senior figures should be working on finding the jet, not worrying about press conferences which are giving out no tangible information.

Those taking the podium also seem to be vastly under prepared and untrained in terms of the media. It is not an excuse these days not to be media trained. Again, it is about giving an air of calm authority, which would go some way to generating confidence in everyone concerned.

The Malaysian government press team have let the media set the agenda.

The poor handling of the situation was brought to bear in worrying fashion with the Press conference which descended into farce, captured by Kay Burley and her camera crew's coverage of it on Sky News.

The Press conference descended into what the British media would term as a "good old-fashioned bun fight" - where journalists in a pack jostle, shout and sometimes even elbow jab to make sure questions are answered.

Amid this chaos, two women, thought to be relatives of passengers on board, had to be removed from the Press conference in distressing scenes. One seemed to have been knocked to the floor in the fracas.

The Press conference summed it all up - the relatives have been seen to take a back seat and fight to be heard behind the latest amazing theory being written in the newspapers.

However, the Malaysian authorities should be taking the stance of being cruel to be kind.

Yes, it would be cruel not to share the latest theories with the relatives. It would be brave also to tell the world's media there was nothing new to report.

But in a modern-day police investigation in the UK for example, there is no way a detective would be briefing on everything there was to say.

By doing this, the authorities have led the relatives on many a merry, disjointed dance than had they chosen to speak only when there was something concrete to say.