How do you explain the inexplicable?

At the very least it’s a great screenplay for a Hollywood blockbuster – a thriller with deeply sinister undertones.

At a push it could stretch to a sci-fi movie focussing on an abduction by aliens, why not?

A $260m Boeing 777, measuring 63.7m in length, weighing up to 295,000 kg and carrying 239 crew and passengers, disappears off the face of the earth – just like that – gone without a trace.

A Boeing 777 goes missing and nobody but nobody appears to have a clue what happened.
A Boeing 777 goes missing and nobody but nobody appears to have a clue what happened.

Despite civilian radar, secretive military surveillance, £90m spent on sophisticated searches covering tens of thousands of square miles of ocean – nothing can determine the fate of the missing plane.

It may sound far-fetched but tragically, as we know all too well, it’s not a work of fiction – it happened.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 vanished on 8th March, 2014, en-route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Flight MH370 disappeared more than two years ago without leaving a trace.
Flight MH370 disappeared more than two years ago without leaving a trace.

Undoubtedly a tale of mystery and human tragedy, it leaves the families and friends of those on board, to mourn and wonder about the fate of those missing, presumed dead.

From a PR perspective it was every professional communicator’s worst nightmare.

It’s bad enough if you’re in a damage limitation situation or trying to defend the ‘indefensible’, but how on earth do you begin to explain the inexplicable?

Amid a myriad of sensitivities, the comms role is to present the facts, striving to keep the families of those lost, any stakeholders, the media and the public, fully appraised with timely and accurate updates.

Will the facts ever emerge? - The wife of a passenger lost on MH370 campaigns for the truth.
Will the facts ever emerge? – The wife of a passenger lost on MH370 campaigns for the truth.

What you don’t want is an information vacuum to develop, one that can and will, be filled with supposition, fiction and downright lies.

It doesn’t help if those entrusted with handling such a terrible event lack a sense of direction, display no leadership and come across as absolutely clueless.

What happened in the immediate aftermath of the disappearance of MH370 can only be described as a shambles – a textbook lesson in how not to conduct crisis communications.

It was only when the Malaysian Minister of Defence, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein took over the daily media briefings that a degree of credibility was restored.

Articulate, confident and fluent in both Bahasa and English, Malaysia would have been much better served if the crisis communications protocols had dictated his immediate appointment as principal spokesman.

Great unknown - the pain and human suffering of the mystery of Flight MH370 is clear to see.
Great unknown – the pain and human suffering of the mystery of Flight MH370 is clear to see.

Now, more than two years on, the conspiracy theories continue – hijacking, sabotage, kidnapping, cover ups – US, Chinese, Israeli, Russian involvement…who knows what happened and who, if anybody, was involved?

Without a definitive, plausible explanation backed up by irrefutable physical evidence, the permutations and scenarios go on and on.

It’s a mess – a communications disaster.

Where in the world? Search teams face a treacherous task trying to locate any signs of MH370.
Where in the world? Search teams face a treacherous task trying to locate any signs of MH370.

Having represented companies in times of crisis, where lives have been lost, reputations have been on the line and contentious issues have raged between corporate entities and Government, I can only imagine the frustrations of those who so desperately want to bring communications clarity to the mystery of Flight MH370.

Sadly, it doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon.

 

David Walker

@RightWordComms

 

 

Suicide attempts, cancer survivors & business success…

Acclaimed as Birmingham’s Businessman of the Year 2015, Peter Murtha is every inch the successful modern day entrepreneur, with prestigious new company headquarters, top-of-the-range sports cars and a luxurious mansion-style home.

It’s all a far cry from his poverty stricken beginnings in London’s East End, the subsequent battles with depression and the accompanying rock bottom levels of self esteem.

The engaging, 46-year old ‘Jack The Lad’ from Barking, has had to scrap his way out of dark times and difficult places, as well as standing up to death threats from sinister rivals, who’d happily have seen him removed from this world, long before his business had time to grow and eclipse the competition.

Hair loss and depression nearly ended Peter Murtha's life but he turned adversity into a virtue and business success.
Hair loss and depression nearly ended Peter Murtha’s life but he turned adversity into a virtue and business success.

Now, 13-years after launching his highly specialised and much acclaimed Optima Hair Specialists Ltd, Peter can boast the UK’s biggest single ‘hair replacement’ studio, operating from Highfield Road in the Edgbaston area of Britain’s Second City.

With thousands of customers, a multi-million pound annual turnover, two-dozen full-time employees, 7,000 sq ft premises and plans to expand on an international scale in 2016/17, Peter has long since learned that the ‘best form of revenge is success.’

Having left school aged 16, without any formal qualifications, he worked as a dustman for a couple of years before becoming a forklift truck driver.

During this time in his early 20s, Peter began losing his hair and with it, his self-confidence, retreating into his shell and spending every last penny,  searching for a remedy – re-mortgaging his flat and getting into dangerous waters with loan sharks.

Staying ahead - Peter Murtha's indefatigable drive and vision has put him and Optima at the top of their game.
Staying ahead – Peter Murtha’s indefatigable drive and vision has put him and Optima at the top of their game.

He said: “I’ve always had an outgoing personality, but I switched to working night shifts on the forklifts because there’d be less people around. That way I could wear a hat to cover up my hair loss, without drawing attention to myself.

“Apart from going to work, I hardly ever went out the house for two years, I was in a really bad way.”

Depression, anxiety and stress all culminated in him attempting to take his own life.

Thankfully he proved less successful in the suicide stakes than in his future business enterprises.

The business - Optima's prestigious new surroundings in Edgbaston means the company has expanded into bigger and better premises three times in just 13 years.
The business – Optima’s prestigious new surroundings in Edgbaston means the company has expanded into bigger and better premises three times in just 13 years.

In a remarkable turnaround and display of mental strength, he harnessed all the threats and intimidation, the childhood traumas and the ‘put-downs’ and turned them to his advantage.

Not prepared to give his enemies and detractors the satisfaction of winning, he transformed any fear of failure into a motivating force, driving him onto success.

“I worked on the principle of how many ‘no’s’ did I have to work through before getting a ‘yes’ and then ensuring I took full advantage of any and every opportunity.”

Once Optima began establishing firm roots in the rapidly growing hair replacement industry, Peter drew upon his own harrowing experiences to help others, both on a commercial and altruistic level.

Heart of Gold - Peter Murtha with one of the young Birmingham Children's Hospital cancer patients who Optima support.
Heart of Gold – Peter Murtha with one of the young Birmingham Children’s Hospital cancer patients who Optima support.

Optima has a strong corporate responsibility ethos and Peter has forged partnerships with a number of worthy causes – including the Birmingham Children’s Hospital – helping young cancer patients combat hair loss – a side effect of chemotherapy, to help them in their fight for life.

“I believe that in this world if you give good, you get good in return. It may sound corny, but it’s better to give than receive.

“Yes, I’m running a successful business, but it’s that success that allows me to do what I really love doing – make a positive difference in the lives of people who are less fortunate than myself.”

One of Birmingham’s favourite adopted sons, Peter fully intends to continue being a success, but not just for himself.

“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved at Optima and I love doing what I do, but ultimately I want to be do far more on the philanthropic side and make a positive difference in the lives of deserving people.”

Illuminating character - Peter Murtha has long since banished dark depression to emerge as a shining business star.
Illuminating character – Peter Murtha has long since banished dark depression to emerge as a shining business star.

With sentiments like that, Right Word Comms are delighted to promote and support Optima, but more importantly, we’re privileged to call Peter Murtha a very special friend.

 

David Walker

 

 

@RightWordComms