With millions of customers stepping on and off planes, twenty-four hours a day it is not a matter of when will a public relations crisis a occur, but how will the airline in question respond when it undoubtedly happens. News, (especially bad news) travels at a record pace through today's various social media platforms. It was proven correct when Dave Carroll’s song, “United Airways Breaks Guitars” went viral, costing United Airways stockholders around one hundred and eighty millions dollars. While the onset of social media has created great travesty for many airlines like United Airways, if handled the right way it can be the holy grail of consumer relations.
With the incident, United Airlines were supposed to take action and placate the internal and external publics that had been riled up by Dave Carroll’s song. However, United Airlines had a hard time expressing its sympathy for both its internal and external public. With the incident, there was no evidence of United Airlines showing the external public that they were making any effort to improve their company policies. While Dave Carroll had gone public with his song, they had decided to contact him personally. Hence the public was not acutely aware of the ongoings. Also, United Airlines did not stand up for their employees and instead it was Dave Carroll who stood up for the employee who attended to him during the incident saying, “In my experience, she was a great employee, unflappable and acting in the interest of the United’s policies she represented… and deserves a bit of a break.” This statement was a big blow that worsened the company’s relations with internal publics as the company did not stick up for its employees.
Goals, Objectives, Strategies
On the onset of the crisis, the primary goal of United Airways should have been to ensure that their relations with the public remained stable and healthy to avoid loss of business. Therefore their first objective should have been to resolve the matter at hand as soon as possible and quiet it down. The strategy they should have undertaken was to first offer Dave Carroll a formal apology and offer him compensation for his loss in the form of another guitar instead of monetary compensation. The personal gift would show that they care about the incident. After this, United Airways should have held a press conference to address the public. In the news conference, they would offer the public an apology and inform them of the steps they have taken so far to rectify the wrong such as offering a formal apology to Dave Carroll’s and buying him another guitar as compensation. They would then say that they hope to avoid future occurrences by revising their customer policy.
While United remained subtle in their response to Carroll’s viral video, other companies jumped at the opportunity to use the viral content to promote their brands. Taylor Guitars did what United should have done first and foremost, a video response. Taylor guitar donated a guitar to Carroll while promoting their service for fixing broken guitars. Taylor guitars understand what United did not, go for the customer where the viral conversation is happening. Till this date, United does not have a response via YouTube. Had United responded directly to the YouTube channel by using a similar tag line, add words and hashtags they could have had used the momentum of Carols following to drive their own response. Second, as customers are reminiscing in their, “United dismay” United should have a team of content analyzers sifting through complaints and responding to as many as possible. Not only is this good for the company in the eyes of the public but this also creates a catalog for caring out changes to company policy. United sent a message that showed little sympathy instead of offering reasonable resolution to Carrolls problem. Perhaps having Carroll sing a, “United Fixes Guitars” would have shown a sympathetic side to United.
A simple Google search of United Breaks Guitars turns up 948,000 results. The search results are a clear sign that the matter was of interest to the public. Taking into consideration that the case painted United Airways in a bad picture, it was not unexpected that United Airways would lose a part of their customer base due to their halfhearted response to the matter. Due to the incident, United Airlines' stock price fell 10%, costing stockholders about $180 million in value.
Within 24 hours Carroll’s United Airway song went viral across multiple social media platforms, unintentionally prompting other disgruntle United Airway patrons to share their bad experiences. The viral conversation created a need for United to respond to their public. Unfortunately United’s first public response via Twitter wasn’t quite what the doctor ordered. “This has struck a chord with us. We’re going to contact him directly and make what happened right.” said, United Airways’ spokeswoman. While a quick action is necessary, a calculated action is worth far more. The public was in on Carroll’s gambit yet United’s public address via Twitter was not addressing their customer base directly. Instead United emailed Carroll and while they responded to his request to donate money it had a half-hearted feel to fixing what many other disgruntle customers saw as a real problem. While Carol was promoting the release of his second and third song, addressing his fan base via social media. United was nowhere to be found, no press releases, no written statements our apologies addressing the public. United responded next by saying they will use Carroll’s video for the training of future employees, once again a halfhearted attempt to resolve the issue at hand. A little intermediate research on their public response lacking a personal touch would have helped United Airways see that this situation needed more than emotionless rhetoric.
Carroll, D. (2013, May 15). United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media. Retrieved from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/United-Breaks-Guitars-Power-Social/dp/1401937942
Carroll, D. (n.d.). UNITED BREAKS GUITARS. Retrieved from Dave Carroll Music: http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/songwriting/united-breaks-guitars/
Hanna, J. (2010, November 29). United Breajs Guitars. Retrieved from Working Knowledge: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/united-breaks-guitars
THE HUFFINGTON POST. (2011, May 25). 'United Breaks Guitars': Did It Really Cost The Airline $180 Million? Retrieved from THE HUFFINGTON POST: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/24/united-breaks-guitars-did_n_244357.html
Wilson, R. (2011). A Public Relations Disaster: How saving $1,200 cost United Airlines 10,772839 negative views on YouTube. Retrieved from Sentium Strategic Communications: http://sentium.com/a-public-relations-disaster-how-saving-1200-cost-united-airlines-10772839-negative-views-on-youtube/
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