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Japan: Crisis Management PR Lessons from Cabinet Secretary Edano

This post is part of our special coverage on the Japan Earthquake 2011.

The nation has been tuning in several times a day for Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano's live press conferences.

PR professional Takashi Kurosawa appreciates the man's style, detailing what Edano is doing right in the blog post “10 Things We can Learn from Cabinet Secretary Edano from the Perspective of Crisis Management PR” (枝野官房長官から学べる10のこと:危機管理広報の視点から). Kurosawa writes about communication, advertising and branding at his blog “the Public Returns“.

This post was translated in its entirety with permission from the blogger.

The Tohoku earthquake that hit on 14:46 on March 11, 2011, is causing distress not only to those in directly afflicted areas but also to those who are not because of the accidents in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Twitpic user shiba36ms conveys his appreciation for Edano's work

In the midst of such a situation, there is one man who’s attracting much attention: Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. His repeated appearances on the media without, we suspect, getting any sleep since the quake, have prompted not only the hashtag “#edano_nero [sleep_edano]” to become a global trending topic on Twitter, but also an article on The Wall Street Journal entitled “Tireless Edano Earns Twitter Respect” to be written.

One important factor in the field of PR is risk management communications during an emergency situation. This is because a mishandling of the situation would lead to antagonizing not only the customers but also society as a whole. Edano’s attitude has been exemplary from this perspective, and I have listed below the reasons why that is so.

1. Speaks clearly, slowly and pauses between paragraphs.

2. Doesn’t read out from a script and speaks in his own words instead.

3. When pointing to a journalist to ask a question, he answers looking at him/her straight in the eye.

4. Doesn’t deny possibilities (such as that of leakage of radiation) and accepts them as “possible”.

5. For factors that require expert knowledge, he first explains so but also voices his own opinion.

6. Repeatedly goes over points that might lead to misunderstanding. (The beginning of the video above taken on the 12th, or the explanation he gave about the 4th reactor -around 10:00 in the video below- are cases in point)

7. Clearly articulates the issues that are of the greatest interest to the audience, namely the possible impacts of radiation on the human body. (Not only in terms of figures, but also about the fact that the time of exposure influences the overall impact.)

8. Doesn’t give evasive answers and instead answers as well as possible within the scope of the available facts.

9. Always appears as the spokesman.

10. Gives concrete examples for what each citizen can do to contribute to the situation (conserve energy, don’t send out chain e-mails, don’t hoard, etc.)

Many have criticised Edano’s conferences particularly after the one on March 12th as providing no useful information or even that he was attempting to cover up facts. It is only fair however that he should speak only about facts based on conclusive evidence. When no significant updates are provided, my understanding (as a non-expert) is that there is no new information since the last conference.

I would like to express my deepest sympathy to those who were afflicted by the earthquake.

Many thanks to Naoki Matsuyama for helping with the translation work.

This post is part of our special coverage on the Japan Earthquake 2011.

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