Knowing your audience is a very important aspect any time a company communicates information to a group or organization. Knowing the audience is even more important when a company has to deal with the fallout following a disaster. The disaster of the Chilean copper mine in South American is one example of where knowing your audience was a very important factor. In a Chilean copper mine, an unfortunate collapse in one of the shafts of them mine had left 33 miners trapped 310 meters (1017 feet) below the ground.
The reactions of the company and their response to the disaster would ultimately determine how the world (their audience) would view them. It became very important that the company representatives who would release information and updates to the public know their audience well. The audience the company would be presenting to would consist of the releases to the press, news correspondence and most important, the families of the victims.
Not only would the representative of the company have to keep the reputation and outlook of the mining company intact, they would have to release accurate and truthful information and that would not always be in the best interest of the company’s reputation. The collapse would not only affect the 33 miners trapped underground, the family members of those 33 men would have to wait in agony waiting on word of their family members fate. When a disaster of this magnitude happens, a company has the responsibility of keeping the family members informed every step of the rescue process, above the news and press.
While initially the company may not have much information, it is important for them to update the families with as much information as soon as possible. This would include any information as to what is occurring in the recovery efforts. Next in line as far as who should be informed would be the employees of the company. While they may have not been directly involved in the collapse, they work for the company and may know the victims of the collapse personally. Keeping the employees of the company informed helps ease the minds of other employees and alleviate stress amongst employees.
Along with keeping them informed, the company can also inform employees and the families of what information is safe to share with the press. The news organizations would stop at nothing to seek out employees, former employees, family members, and victims of the disaster in order to disgrace the company, and they were successful. Another audience of the disaster was the international stage. The company responsible for the collapse was on the world stage because they were a global company. They owned and operated mines all over the world, not just in South America.
Throughout the disaster, news organizations, television, and Internet sources were rampant with rumors, factual or not. While rumor control was a top priority of the company, it is impossible to stop a moving train. This disaster also had another not so publically known audience, the investors, owners, and stockholders of the companies. This audience was extremely important to the company because withholding information from them could cause a panic. In a panic, investors could pull funds, sell off assets, and leave the company in bankruptcy.
Investors are only concerned with their money, and the information they receive (good or bad) can determine how they react. Instead of this group learning of something on the television, it was important for them to be up to date on all information just like the families, in order to ensure the company’s future. Not only should it be up to date information, but also truthful information. Any evidence of deceit of untruthfulness could lead to the company’s demise when the investors pull funding. Two types of communication can be used to conveyed information from the company.
One method would be general blanket statement, or a general release of information to everyone. An example of this would be press releases letting everyone know that all efforts to retrieve the men from the mine are underway. Another method would be communications specific to the needs of each group. An example would be to talk with the family members and let them know if they have had communication from the victims. With the information they have, the company should consider the information and let the appropriate group know the information first.
In the case of the collapse, the families of the victims would have been priority number one in the release of information; they above all do not need to get an update on what was happening on the television. The best way to communicate to the families would be a face-to-face meeting. This method of communication tells the family members that they are important in the situation. A telephone call is impersonal and can make a victim feel like they are not important. In a face-to-face meeting, the use of body language and tone of voice can convey compassion and care. The person giving the news must also act in this way.
In this situation, the mining company found that dealing with the families was the hardest obstacle of the accident. The company soon discovered that many family members not even known to the company came out of the shadows when monetary damages were to be paid (Prengaman,2010). In a communication written by Juan Weik, a general information memo was suitable for release to the public as a memo only. This is true because the memo was short, to the point, as any business communication should be. The article pointed out the four main “W’s”, the who, what, when, and where.
Along with this, he told of how the mining company had been involved in accidents in the past. However, they failed to mention further information needed to substantiate the claims made. Without supporting facts, the claims were not verifiable and credible (Weik, 2010). The most important factor in any communication is who the audience will be. The communication needs to be appropriate for its audience. The communication should also have as much detail as possible, and presented in a timely fashion. The best way to assure the communication is effective is to deliver it in the best format to the audience (Cheesebro, O’Connor, & Rios, 2010).