Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson spent his Monday speaking with the media in an attempt to build trust with the public in the wake of a fatal Virgin Galactic test flight on Friday.
“We need to know exactly what happened to make absolutely certain it will never happen again,” Branson said on CBS’s “This Morning.”
According to preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the tail mechanism of the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane was activated prematurely over the Mojave Desert, which may have been responsible for the crash. The ship’s copilot died and the pilot is being treated for injuries.
For now, Branson says he plans to move forward with Virgin Galactic’s mission of commercial space travel, which means he’ll need to restore the public’s faith in him and his company.
We asked crisis management expert Jeff Eller what Branson needs to do to keep his reputation as a strong leader intact. Eller was a media strategist with the Clinton administration in 1993 and ’94 and did crisis management consulting with Firestone on the disastrous 2000 tire recall and with General Motors earlier this year in its massive multi-vehicle recall.
Here’s a look at what Branson, and any other leader in a time of crisis, needs to do to recover quickly.
Run to the problem.
Shortly after the news broke that the flight crashed on Friday, Branson tweeted that he was immediately on his way to the crash site to be with the team.
In his recent book “The Virgin Way,” Branson criticized Carnival Corporation CEO Mickey Arison for going on with his day as usual after a Carnival cruise sunk in 2012, killing 32 and injuring many others, and behaving similarly when a cruise ship was stranded at sea less than a year later. Branson writes that being the head of a company means understanding that his employees and the public look to you in times of tragedy.
Eller thinks that Branson handled the initial response to the crash well in the face of speculation and even harsh criticism. “He’s a strong communicator. He knew he had to carry the load and he did. He was clear, solid, and credible,” Eller said.
Be upfront about what is known and what isn’t.
Eller said that a common mistake executives make when dealing with a crisis is — For more information read the original article here.