United they will fall

Posted in Businesson Apr 10, 2017

Dear United Airlines,

The Internet has video of you dragging a paying customer kicking and screaming off your plane.  It is quite embarrassing for you.  The old PR means of dealing with this kind of embarrasment–downplay it and it will blow over in a few weeks–won’t work, just as it didn’t work for Target last year with its bathroom debacle.  It cost Target millions and will cause you much more if you fail to address the new age of Internet-mob-rules public relations.

Here are some options you may consider and how they might work out for you:

Apologize and never do it again.  You might have your ego bruised for the few weeks it would take for this to all blow over.  Be careful, because a half apology, one where you only apologize for the Internet’s response, will only make it worse.  Try something like “We apologize to the passenger, everyone else on the flight, and all of our customers. It should not have happened.  We promise that we will never do it again.”

Blame the police.  There is a lot of distrust of the police, so you may be able to shift the blame, but it could backfire if The Internet thinks you are simply trying to avoid taking responsibility.  Your message would be one like, “We called in the Port Police to de-escalate the situation, but unfortunately it wasn’t resolved in a manner consistent with our customer commitment.  We are working with the Police authorities to ensure their responses are more appropriate in the future.”

Convince the Internet that the unruly passenger is the one at fault.  So basically, your millions of customers probably think that if they are sitting in a seat that they paid for, that they shouldn’t be forced out of their seat.  Sure you might have some legal stuff that proves otherwise, but that won’t stop your millions of customers from thinking that.  So you could blame the customer, suggest that he was at fault for not obeying instructions or following the rules.  And good luck convincing The Internet of that.  Yeah, you might think it noble to stand up for your company or your employees, and you will find yourself certainly having to do that when the entire Internet inflicts boycott wrath on your financials.

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