Well, it's been an entertaining week for me and most of the internet, but maybe not the United public relations people. In case you've been living under a rock, United had a bit of an incident regarding removing a passenger from one of its flights. As many people often forget, everyone has a camera and is prepared to use it, so when the removal of one passenger went poorly, the whole world got to see it. Social media went absolutely berserk with its creativity and mob mentality. Here are some of my favorites:
There's nothing like a little "The Walking Dead" reference to get things going.
Put your seat backs forward and your tray tables in their upright and locked position, because this little video shows a compilation of some of the more unfortunate video clips out there regarding airline customer service incidents, including our main topic. Internet Culture takes no prisoners, and this video is a perfect example of that. The last place a company or individual wants to be is staring down the barrel of a guy held by the internet. The constant and unerasable documentation that the internet provides gives commentators carte blanche ability to completely rail a brand or individual.
The nervous anxiousness was expressed by passengers that were flying soon after. Most knew fine and well that nothing would happen to them, yet the nervousness was still present.
Of course this gives great oppertunity for people to show their support for a competator.
One of the most damning things to come out of the United blunder was a huge selloff in their stock. To be fair, almost immediately after the selloff, the price returned to similar values as before the implosion. But, that graph looks terrible.
United didn't seem to help themselves very early on when they began to respond to the backlash. However, after a few more hours of being utterly pummeled by the internet, the executive team got serious about what had happened. In the end, it was probably too little, too late. Once the internet digs its teeth in, the best thing do is play dead for a while.
Something every brand should be worried about, and plan for is public relations disaster recovery. Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but United would have been much better off not providing a response until later. A mere "we are thoroughly investigating the situation" would have done wonders. The use of the term "re-accomodation" was clearly not the best choice, either. The world is usually willing to forgive, but modesty goes a long way in showing the world that your company or personal brand is truly sorry.
- Trey Currid