When it comes to public opinion and interpretation, wording can be everything. Unfortunately for Malaysia Airlines, wording didn’t prove to be in the airline’s favor in the case of a recent tweet.

 

It is no secret that the airline has been battling with a faltering reputation following the loss of Flight 370 — a flight that nearly a year later has yet to be found. It did not help that just a few months following the missing flight, the airline made headlines again when another one of its flights was shot down over Ukraine.

 

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on March 8, 2014, along with 12 crew members and 227 passengers. The flight has yet to be found (usatoday.com)

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on March 8, 2014, along with 12 crew members and 227 passengers. The flight has yet to be found (usatoday.com)

Now, Malaysia Airlines’ recent social media misstep has made matters worse. A tweet which was intended to inspire travelers and contribute to an ongoing effort to rebuild the airline’s public image has instead brought bad memories back to the surface.

 

In the tweet, the airline asked its followers: “Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where?”

 

For any other airline, the tweet’s intent to inspire travelers may have had the desired effect. However, for an airline still struggling with the tragic loss of one of its major commercial flights, building a marketing strategy around the concept of going somewhere unknown is not particularly wise.

 

Although Malaysia Airlines apologized for its unintentionally offensive tweet, it was not easy to reverse the damage once it had been done (twitter.com)

Although Malaysia Airlines apologized for its unintentionally offensive tweet, it was not easy to reverse the damage once it had been done (twitter.com)

This is yet another serious example of the power that wording and semantics can have. It is a power that carries the potential to be immensely beneficial or immensely damaging. In this case, it has unfortunately taken the form of the latter.

 

In order for a company to build a strong reputation with consumers, it is necessary to recognize how semantics can influence the public. Furthermore, it is necessary for companies to have the foresight to anticipate all potential interpretations of the words it uses, whether in formal advertising campaigns or via social media. That strategic period can allow a brand to build its messages accordingly so that however those messages are construed, they can be beneficial at best and neutral at worst. Otherwise, a company may set itself up for scandal at its own hands.

 

From a PR standpoint, Malaysia Airlines gave little consideration to the possible ways the tweet in question could be construed by the public. If the airline is to have any hope of improving its public image, it is crucial that closer attention is given to how it frames its messages. As PR professionals here at MUIPR, we believe that attention to even the simplest details can make the biggest difference in winning back the public’s trust.

 

What are your thoughts on Malaysia Airlines’ poorly thought out tweet? Share them with us below or tweet me @tamarahoumi