Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TSA Full Body Scanner Images Controversy

I am reading with great interest the current controversy, and growing public backlash, surrounding the implementation of full body scanner in US airports.  In its implementation plan, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) had obviously done their stakeholder analysis and correctly identified the 2 key stakeholders concerns of personal privacy and health concerns.  The TSA then went on to develop a comprehensive public communication package to address these concerns.

So what when wrong?

To know the answer, we must first understand that every stakeholder has a hierarchy of values.  For some, especially in Asian societies, the concept of individual sacrifices for the good of society is widely accepted.  For Americans on the other hand, this notion is not in their psyche and they have been brought-up believing in the pre-eminence of individual rights and freedom.  Hence, in my view, while the TSA correctly identified the issues, they incorrectly believed that in a post 9/11 world, the American public would value public safety over their individual rights for personal privacy.

The key take-away for PR Professionals is this.  While an organisation can correctly identify stakeholders concerns, this is not enough.  To be effective, the development of a communication package must be based on a thorough understanding of the stakeholder including, like this TSA crisis shows, the stakeholders' hierarchy of values.

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