Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Lessons in Crisis Communication
NUMATA Sadaaki  / Vice Chairman, The English Speaking Union of Japan

June 7, 2011
As we enter the fourth month after the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster, we should take stock of what we can learn about crisis communication with the world. Three lessons stand out in my mind.
Lesson 1: You should jump into the information space without hesitation and inject your messages proactively.

Nik Gowing, a veteran BBC television presenter who used to interview me occasionally, describes the challenge as a fierce race with bloggers, speculation and allegations to gain the information high ground. You face the F3 dilemma: You can be First, and you can be Fast. But in entering the race for the information space how Flawed – how mistaken and inaccurate -might you be. But you should enter the race all the same, ready to correct the "flaws" as you go along. ("Skyful of Lies and Black Swans", RISJ, July 2009.)

There were allegations of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and the GOJ (government of Japan) hiding some inconvenient truths concerning the severity of the crisis (Level 5 of the INES rating later upgraded to Level 7), the "meltdown" or otherwise at Reactor No.1, 2 and 3, and the delayed release of the SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information) data. It seemed that, as time elapsed, veil after veil was lifted to reveal the disturbing truth. The fear that premature release of unverified information would cause panic is understandable, but withholding it could in turn undermine the public's confidence at home and abroad. It would have been better to follow the F3 approach and lay open the conceivable worse/worst scenarios from the outset.

Lesson 2: Messages should be unambiguous and forceful, based on keen sensitivity to the context.

When you face the international media, you need to be keenly aware of where you stand in the context of the divisive global debate on nuclear power and be sensitive to the main concerns of the international community, such as physical safety or health. Instead of inundating the media with a huge mass of data, you need to condense them into unambiguous and forceful messages, and deliver them preferably in English, the lingua franca. The bulk of this burden fell on the small staff of the Cabinet Office for Global Communication. Effective international communicators from scientific and other non-governmental communities should be mobilized as well.

Uncoordinated fragments of information from multiple sources give rise to confusion. A central command post should be set up as soon as a crisis breaks out. It should take charge of crisis communication in analyzing the situation, prioritizing the relevant information, and preparing the key messages for delivery by the responsible leaders.

Lesson 3: There should be proactive dissemination abroad of good, positive stories covering wide segments of Japanese society.

Initially, the resilience of the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami, such as their calmness, orderliness and perseverance, impressed the international media. However, as the myth of "Safe Japan" eroded and harmful rumours on the effects of radiation spread abroad, Japan’s image nurtured through brands such as "Cool Japan" and "Japan's Cuisine" has been negatively affected.

Restoring Japan's image will depend on the determination and action of its political leaders, in government and in opposition, to rebuild the nation together and regain Japan's role as a global player. Equally important are the encouraging signs in various segments of Japanese society: the quick pace of restoration of automobile production and the supply chain of semi-conductors and other parts; the actions of local heroes like the young medical doctor who risked his life to save his patients and the mayor of an affected city whose impassioned plea for help on YouTube moved the world, both of whom were cited in the TIME 100; and tens of thousands of volunteers who rushed to the affected areas to help. These good stories should be disseminated proactively to the world.

The writer is a former Foreign Ministry Spokesman and ambassador to Pakistan and Canada.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭  / 日本英語交流連盟 副会長

2011年 6月 7日


筆者を何度かインタビューしたことのあるBBC テレビのベテラン・キャスターNik Gowingは、危機コミュニケーションは、ブログとか推測とか不当な主張等が溢れる中で情報空間の主導権を握ろうとする熾烈な競争であるとして、とにかく、情報空間に最初に(First)乗り込み、速く(Fast)対応することを勧めている。だが、このような競争に飛び込む時に、持っている情報が誤っているとか不正確(Flawed)かも知れないとのジレンマ(3F dilemma)がある。にもかかわらず、この競争に加わる必要があり、不完全な情報は後から必要に応じ訂正して行くべしとしている。(Nik Gowing, "Skyful of Lies" and Black Swans", RISJ, July 2009)。








一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟