The families of 13 miners trapped in the Sago Coal Mine in West Virginia were told that 12 miners survived and only one died. It turns out that the opposite was true; only one survived and is in critical condition.
Clearly the International Coal Group, the company who owns the mine, did not have an adequate crisis communications plan.
A crisis plan would include a chain-of-command to ensure that incorrect, and potentially harmful, misinformation was not released. It would also include a strategy to communicate effectively with employees, victim’s families, the media and government officials.
Almost nothing is as harmful to affected families (and ultimately company reputation) than misinformation in a moment like this. One family member interviewed on NPR said it was three hours before family members got the corrected news.
The reporter she was talking to called it “a little cruel,” and it really was.
Scott at Idea Grove and the Holmes Report Blog are also covering this disaster and its communications blunder.