|Investigation report (FGDI)|
IntroductionOn March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitute earthquake hit the northeastern part of Japan. People all over the country had faced the threat of radioactive pollution right after the Fukushima power-plant accidents had happened by tsunami on the following days. During that time, the Japanese government had to deal with this unprecedented crisis and at the same time convey its urgent messages to the publics using various kinds of media in order to inform them of crisis situation and give them a relief. A year has passed after the quake and two investigation reports on the government's crisis management during the disaster were released. One is published by a private think tank (Fukushima Genpatsujiko Dokuritsu Iinkai [FGDI], 2012) and the other is by the National Diet of Japan (The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission [FNAIIC], 2012).
Purpose of StudyIn this paper, the practices of crisis communication by the Japanese government during the crisis are going to be examined in three different media categories (mass, social, and international media) mainly with the two investigation reports and several related scholarly works on crisis management.
Justification of StudyThis paper is written to contribute to the better understanding of what the Japanese government could have done better during the disaster for the public relations and what it should now do for the preparation for the next huge disaster. The paper may also contribute to the study of crisis management by a government as a case of a media management at a huge natural disaster in the digital era.
Review of the Scholarly Literature
Crisis Management by a Governmental Organization
A volume of preceded scholarly literature can be found regarding crisis management theories and practices. Among them, Arjen Boin's work (Boin, 2009) mainly focuses on the challenges that a governmental organization would face at a huge natural crisis. Through the examination and analysis of how the Louisiana State Government had dealt with Hurricane Gustav in 2008, Boin points out the main characteristics of today's transboundary crises and illustrates the five main tasks that an administration must do for its crisis management and policy making.
Reports and Records on Japan's 2011 Tohoku Earthquake
|Investigation report (FNAIIC)|
Other Scholarly Literature on the Tohoku Earthquake
Because very few complete investigation reports are available at the moment, there is very small amount of scholarly literature that focuses on the crisis management by the Japanese government. One of the few works that deals with a crisis communication issue is the paper written by Ronald L. Carr, Cornelius B. Pratt, and Irene C. Herrera (Carr, Pratt, & Herrera, 2012). In here, the authors examine the disaster and how Japanese publics reacted to the government through SNSs with a sense of distrust. They point out that the public's frustration had emerged to a perceived level with a great help of new social media.
Media Management of Mass Media
|Tsunami flooring in Sendai Airport|
According to FGDI, around 70% of the respondents of a public-opinion poll said “insufficient” about the information provided by the government during the crisis. The other poll indicates the public's strong dissatisfaction with the public relations activities by the government. Moreover, about 60-70% of people did not support its crisis management (FGDI, 2012). Public opinion became more negative after the TEPCO admitted that the nuclear meltdown had actually occurred right after the earthquake. The public support had largely gone down as negative criticisms for the government's initial response to the disaster had increased. (FGDI, 2012).
Media Management of Social Media
|Prime Minister's Office|
At the other departments like Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC), the staffs there acted together to build an online system that enabled the official administrators to acquire a certified Twitter account smoothly and at the same time list their accounts on a social media portal site as a public institution.
Even with the various efforts mentioned above, the government did not seem to earn public's trust much. According to a poll in the report, 28.9% of people decreased confidence in the information released by the government, whereas only 7.8% increased it. On the other hand, 23.1% still saw the governmental announcement as a valuable resource (FGDI, 2012).
Overall, the government had insufficient PR organizations at the disaster. First of all, the government did not have proper staffs who knew about social media very well. There was no specialist from a social media industry until it finally employed a blogger who are assigned to interact more with the public in September (FGDI, 2012). In a word, most of the PR practices that the government did were one-way communications to the public and were not intended to get feedback from them.
Media Management of International Media
|Prime Minister then Kan|
|Map of seismic intensity|
ConclusionThe impact of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and the following nuclear crisis in Japan were unexpected for all the staffs in the Prime Minister's Office. They could not handle them successfully, especially in the field of public communications. Due to a chaotic situation, communication problems in the Office, and inefficient uses of social media, the government had gradually lost the public's credit. The situation had gotten worse with its media-relations policy that it only conveyed the limited, confirmed information. The information policy only made the public and international media respect less of what the Japanese government said. There are still some investigation committees working on their final reports on the government's crisis management during the crisis. The English translations of the two investigation reports are also going to be published soon. Through these investigations and examinations, the Japanese officials and public will learn what went wrong during the crisis and know what can be prepared for the next possible natural disaster in the future.