The Good and the Bad public relations in CBN’s trapped funds “payment” to Emirates and foreign airlines
Nigeria averted an international embarrassment and a public relations disaster by making a last minute offer to release part of the trapped funds being owed to Emirates Airlines, British Airways, Delta and all the other international flight operators to Nigeria.
The office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday announced the release of $265 million to foreign airlines operating in the country for the remittance of a part of their unpaid revenues from ticket sales.
This was after Emirates announced a suspension of its operations in Nigeria. Soon after, British Airways also threatened to get out of the market, due to the mounting trapped funds. Emirates and British Airways are probably the most loved airline brands in Nigeria.
The announcement by the Central Bank to pay the airlines their debts, was quite timely. So, on the face of it, this was a smart move by CBN. But from a PR point of view, it was both good and bad. Ugly too? Perhaps not yet.
CBN’s good PR
Here are the good Public Relations points scored by the Central Bank in the airlines trapped funds saga:
The timing of the announcement was impeccable, coming just a few days before September 1 deadline by Emirates. In PR, timing is almost everything.
- Saturation coverage
CBN gave it massive coverage. They sent the statement by email, WhatsApp, texts and all other means of communications. The announcement was in over 50 news outlets in less than 24 hours.
- Stakeholders outreach
CBN did not circulate the statement to the media alone. It was also sent directly to Emirates and all the other airlines as well as other key stakeholders in the aviation industry.
CBN’s bad PR
Where did the CBN get it wrong? It scored poorly on these points.
- Credibility question
The statement was not issued on any official paper and was not signed. It left many journalists initially questioning if it was authentic.
The PR action by CBN was rushed and it seemed that they were more concerned about looking good than doing good.
- Truth or spin?
The CBN statement said it had “released the sum of $265 million to airlines operating in the country, to settle outstanding ticket sales.”
This was false. The CBN move was an intention and promise to pay, not an action or actual payment itself as it implied.
It would have been the truth if the CBN for example had already sent out payment cheques to the airlines or promise notes. Most of the airlines themselves heard about the trapped funds payment only in the pages of the media.
In PR, this is called a spin, and inadvertently a failure to be wholly truthful. Again in public relations, the truth or lack of it will always find you out.
- Communications dissonance
Before the CBN payment declaration, most of the communications and updates were coming from the Minister of Information and the Aviation Minister’s office.
The CBN announcement suddenly jumped into the picture, therefore creating more of a disruption than the repair it intended.
The PR verdict: Good, bad or ugly?
The CBN action has been a display of both good and bad public relations. There are two ways the story can now go – good or ugly. The action that now follows the CBN fine words will determine whether the story stays good or turns very ugly.