Category: Best use of integrated communication measurement/research

Client/Entering Company: CARMA

Campaign title: Flight EK521 crisis report

Company Name: Emirates Airline


Emirates, the world’s largest international airline and a globally inspiring brand, faces a crisis of global proportions when flight EK521 crash-lands and explodes into flames at Dubai International airport in August 2016. The largest reputational threat the airline has faced in its history requires real-time monitoring and impactful analysis to guide a 24/7 global crisis communications effort. CARMA conducts the largest crisis measurement effort in its history and successfully provides Emirates with the insights it requires to manage the situation effectively.


Emirates Flight 521 is a scheduled international passenger flight from Thiruvananthapuram, India, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On Wednesday 3rd August 2016, the aircraft carrying 300 passengers and crew crash landed at 12.45 local time. Emergency response successfully evacuated all 300 people on board, but an airport firefighter died during the rescue operation and another eight were injured; 24 passengers received minor injuries.

Emirates commissioned CARMA to ensure live monitoring of the event, key alerts throughout the crisis and two reports for senior management analysing coverage about the incident; objectives included:

  • Capture the ‘story’ of global reactions to the event across social and traditional media
  • Provide live/early warning of emerging issues including fake news, rumours
  • Identify key themes, discussions and sentiment over the course of the event
  • Identify issues-based differences across various stakeholder groups, media and geographies
  • Measure Emirates Airlines’ reputation throughout the crisis
  • Measure the communications performance of Emirates Airlines’ communications team throughout the crisis


CARMA’s monitoring team initiated a global, real-time monitoring across social and traditional channels, providing hourly alerts to the client, including rapid translations from dozens of languages.

To ensure strong targeted monitoring, CARMA focused on key international media (especially broadcast and social) which would drive reputational factors; target lists of key influencers were rapidly created, especially in markets where passengers were from in general, and India (where the flight originated), Dubai (Emirates’ home base) and key transport/tourism/aviation/air safety influencers.

Analysis was driven by a focus on two factors: Reputational impact and communications effectiveness.

Multi-faceted crisis reporting was shaped to deliver real-time alerts from global sources, curated media analysis every hour on the CARMA Insight portal, key reputational analysis every four hours and two comprehensive executive reports designed for senior management.


Monitoring (key highlights)

  • Leverage existing list of key transport/tourism/aviation/air safety influencers
  • Rapidly create new lists of relevant social influencers including journalists, government officials, globally
  • Create country-by-country lists of key international titles covering the crisis
  • Conduct speech-to-text sweeps of thousands of broadcast stations, globally
  • Human validation of Tier 1 broadcast television and radio programmes, globally
  • Strong balance of automation and human validation of global social and traditional conducted

Analysis (key highlights)

  • Deploy open codeframe with broad categories to capture expected and unexpected topics
  • Native-language speakers conduct real-time coding and analysis globally
  • Senior CARMA staff in America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East team up to provide media content analysis (all metrics: messages, issues, sentiment, tone, volume, media type, geography) hourly for 48 consecutive hours
  • Deploy CARMA Sector Expertise Model: an industry expert created reputational impact report

Reporting (key highlights)

CARMA’s live alerts, curated dashboard, human-coded analysis, sector-expert reputational impact reports and two executive management reports, ensured consistent, simplified and impactful reporting of key insights to Emirates:

  • Topic timeline illustrated the changes in the themes being discussed in six-hourly segments on social and online, and day to day for print and broadcast
  • Fake news/misinformation/speculation related to causes of the incident were tabulated from social and traditional media and visualized in aggregate and comparatively for easy comparison
  • Emirates’ official statements mapped hourly to sentiment and volume trends for online and social media
  • Key communications drivers were highlighted for positive, negative and neutral sentiment
  • International reaction was analysed for issues, themes, tone
  • Reported and analysed key statements from stakeholders, and from government officials to reporters and customers
  • Communications effectiveness report analysed success in reach and resonance of key messages
  • Reputational impact report identified key positive and negative drivers
  • Executive summary integrated all findings

Effectiveness of Assignment

  • Emirates had its full informational/insights requirements fulfilled hourly for the duration of the crisis (during and post)
  • Human-curated social listening identified influencers and issues that allowed Emirates’ customer service to engage with concerned families in India and to strengthen helpline response
  • Stakeholder and spokesperson analysis identified that the swift and competent actions of Emirates’ staff (CEO, PR, cabin crew and ground staff) had averted a potential reputational disaster
  • Communications performance measurement demonstrated successful strategy of engaging with the public
  • Reputational analysis identified key drivers to prepare for future crises:

Positive drivers

  • Crew efficiency
  • Crisis management communications
  • Emirates staff training

Negative drivers

  • Type, age and quality of aircraft used on route
  • Delays at Dubai International Airport due to the incident
  • Unavailability of Indian helpline

*“The CARMA team truly felt like an extension of the Emirates Public Relations team during the EK 521 incident through their proactive approach to monitoring and analysis. The team’s responsiveness helped us stay on top of the volumes of media coverage, especially during the first 24 hours.

CARMA also consistently delivered integrated monitoring and analysis in the days that followed to help us make sense of the global news coverage that was spread across multiple mediums (TV, radio, print, online). This helped us adapt our communications, and provide informed recommendations to internal stakeholders.”

* – Valerie Tan, Vice President Public Relations, Social Media & Internal Communications, Emirates Airlines


  • Crisis occurred and response time had to be immediate
  • The reputational stakes for Emirates (and CARMA) were severely high – this was no ordinary day, no ordinary report
  • CARMA utilized every single asset within its knowledge arsenal to support the client, including:

– Monitoring of all media (social, web, broadcast, print) globally and in numerous languages
– Assigning 35 monitoring executives to human filter global content capture
– Identifying fake news, false statements and rumours in real time
– Conducting hourly media content analysis for 48 consecutive hours
– Deploying the Sector Expertise Model at CARMA with our aviation expert in Europe providing reputational analysis to Emirates every six hours
– Focusing on reputational analytics and long-term impact on Emirates
– Integrating social media findings and alerts within the Emirates CRM/helpline workflow
– Working closely with senior Emirates executives in the middle of a crisis

Flight EK521 crisis report – extracts from the two analysis reports