A Costly Lesson of Poor PR Management

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A Costly Lesson of Poor PR Management

The weird behavior of the airline staff in deplaning one of the passengers of the United Airlines proved to be a costly lesson for the management team.  The strategy of overbooking the aircraft or a similar passenger vehicle is a common practice in almost all the service providers.  However, the inept handling of the situation has exposed the unproductive policy for the United Airlines.  The video which went viral made the management to retreat on the faux pass during the subsequent reaction from the PR Group and management.  The video recorded by some passengers made enough food for social media analytic tools and to sit on the judgment seat.  Therefore, there is no second opinion that the unfriendly customer service would mar the business of any service provider.

Horrific Behavior Not Justified

The over-enthusiastic behavior of the airline staff in trying to accommodate the in-flight staff members in the over-booked flight did not augur well.  Of course, no doubt the amicable settlement of the issue is not the basis for resorting to the unruly behavior of the staff.  The more dignified way of dealing with such an unexpected and unprecedented incident would have avoided the criticism from the media monitoring public.  Even a criminal might not have been meted with such a treatment resulting in bruises and loss of a couple of front teeth.

The statement of the Oscar Munoz, CEO of the airlines on the following day justifying the action of the airline staff was more employee-centric rather than the customer focusing.  Probably he did not gauge the situation properly and certainly undermined the power of the media monitoring intelligence.  Probably, had the video has not gone viral; the things would have been different perhaps. In the background of this, therefore, even the apology from the airlines was not taken in the right spirit.

Justice Delayed-Justice Denied

No doubt, the airlines forced the airline staff concerned on administrative leave, but it was too late to appreciate the action. The enormous time gap between the incident and the concrete action by the management coupled with the statement of the CEO trying to justify the indefensible made things beyond the expectation.  The statement of the CEO in favour of the airline was applauded by the employees which was in their favor.  But, he did not realize that without customers, neither the organization nor the employees exist.   No doubt, the intention of the airlines in trying to accommodate the cabin staff went futile in spite of the personal requests.  The video footage clearly shows injured passenger who was hit to the armrest and subsequently dragged added fuel to the public outcry. Therefore, the media monitoring tools did not accept the version of the CEO.  Thus, the poor PR strategy at both the levels of the airline staff and the management exposed the poor customer priority.

Twists and Turns

Initially, the media reported that the passenger belonged to the Asia-Pacific region and the public guessing that he is a Chinese added the racial twist to the incident.  The media monitoring service which is waiting for an opportunity would jump the gun and try to color any such an incident with ethnic origins.  Others are also eager to join the unverified facts and raise their voice based on the personal bias.  In the digital era, the ubiquitous presence of the advanced technological gadgets makes the situation vulnerable with which the image or the video footage is transmitted worldwide without any limits of the boundaries.  No doubt, therefore, the social media also should behave as a responsible citizen in spreading the unverified and incorrect messages and rumors.

Be Alert and Vigilant

Here comes the major role of the proactive PR team in feeling the pulse in advance and report the same to the management. The swift action and the right decision making by the management would dilute the unpleasant situations.  The sole idea of depending on the media monitoring solutions would expose the poor PR team or a lack PR strategy of the organization.  There is no firefighting once the damage is already done, since you will not be able to regain the original position once the news goes across the world.