Finally Rolls Royce decides it needs some PR help six weeks after the Qantas incident

It’s amazing how often large, supposedly successful companies just don’t understand that good communications are crucial to the bottom line, and fail to realise that they should have crisis management strategies and systems in place for when things go wrong.

BP's sluggish response to the Deepwater disaster was one classic example. Now Rolls Royce is believed to be finally looking for an external PR agency to help it repair the severe damage to its reputation, following the problems with its Trent 900 engine that forced the emergency landing of a Qantas plane in early November.

Since that incident, when RR let Qantas make all the running in terms of communicating with consumers, investors, suppliers and political opinion formers, its share price has dropped by ten per cent and large doubts have been raised about the safety and efficiency of its engines.

As someone said the other day, Rolls Royce has the whiff of BP about it.

The company is now talking to agencies about an international PR brief. Given the damage to RR’s reputation as a whole from the Qantas emergency, the account is likely to cover defence, marine, energy, nuclear and services divisions as well as the crucial civil aerospace area that has been under the spotlight lately.

With Australian investigators this week deciding that the most probable cause of the incident was a design fault in the Trent 900, it is clear that whichever agency wins the business, they will certainly be earning their fees.

The question is why didn't Rolls Royce have a strategy for dealing with a crisis like this and a team in place to put it into action.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.