Brand-Centered Communications Management in Crises Attributed to Mental Health Issues. The Case of the Germanwings Disaster

George Priovolos, Vincent F. Maher, Elisabeth Maher

Abstract


Recently, the alleged Germanwings airline pilot suicide/mass murder incident has sparked academic and industry interest in the relationship between mental illness, work, and company management.  While much of the early discussion focused on the direct and indirect (“hidden”) costs of mental illness to organizations and society as a whole, attention appears now to be shifting towards developing appropriate strategy and tactics to manage mental health issues at work from a Human Resources perspective. This paper identifies several problems in the Lufthansa/Germanwings crisis communications management approach, which appear to have exacerbated – instead of alleviating – the negative effects of the disaster on their business reputation and brand. Then, based on the lessons drawn from a review of the related literature, the authors make a number of recommendations on how to strategically manage business communications during similar crises attributed to mental health issues and – in the long-run – frame the debate in a manner that will allow organizations to successfully bridge the gap between their “wounded” (actual) and desired corporate brand images.

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