I think it’s now safe to say that Steve Slater is to 2010 what Chris Crocker was to 2007. Yet amidst all of the poking fun, blogs, tweets and speculation what it would be like to quit your job Thelma & Louise blaze of glory style (If you know, they galavanted down the emergency exit slide onto the tarmac with beers in hand verses jumping a cliff in a convertible) there seems to be an awkward silence emitting from JetBlue. As a category leader in social media engagement, I was surprised that they’d allow Mr. Slater to take over the brand conversation. By ignoring the meme, JetBlue fell into the same issues that have afflicted Dominos Pizza and other brands before them: using social media selectively to engage your audience never works. Embracing your audience in two-way dialogue almost always works.
Need an example? Take a look at our client Graco and the three recalls we helped manage with them this year. If Graco used social as a two-way forum to communicate, and then turned off the communication during times of crisis, I highly doubt the trust accrued between brand and client would have been strong enough to endure a highly sensitive issue. In fact because they were so active in conversation with customers both new and old, they were expected to speak as a trusted source of information and did so exceedingly well to the point of receiving praise from their customers on how quickly they were able to distribute information.
So analyzing JetBlue for a brief moment, the snapshot of Jet Blue’s social media and owned media presence includes:
What’s baffling about this entire ordeal, is in much worse times of brand risk, JetBlue took the time to address their audience in a quick and timely fashion. While he didn’t get ahead of the press, JetBlue CEO, David Neeleman, posted a video viewed 384,965 times during which he publicly discussed and apologized for the missteps taken that stranded thousands of JetBlue customers. He was thorough and sincere during the 3 minute clip and gave concrete solutions to solving the issues surrounding their mistakes. The video was highly received, accruing 4 star feedback from the Youtube community. At one point in the video David references the flight delays by explaining that JetBlue can ignore it and consider it an aberration, or you can examine it internally and determine how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
My question to JetBlue is where was that statement in relation to their rogue flight attendant? Community on JetBlue’s facebook discussion tab, and on their blog is dominated with messages and comments regarding the Steve Slater ordeal. Yet responses are few and far between. Finally, 10 hours ago, JetBlue finally responded with a simple blog post highlighting the issues specifically impacted by Steve Slater. The post was short and to the point:
“It wouldn’t be fair for us to point out absurdities in other corners of the industry without acknowledging when it’s about us. Well, this week’s news certainly falls into that category. Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants? While we can’t discuss the details of what is an ongoing investigation, plenty of others have already formed opinions on the matter. Like, the entire Internet. (The reason we’re not commenting is that we respect the privacy of the individual. People can speak on their own behalf; we won’t do it for them.)
While this episode may feed your inner Office Space, we just want to take this space to recognize our 2,300 fantastic, awesome and professional Inflight Crewmembers for delivering the JetBlue Experience you’ve come to expect of us.”
In their own way they addressed the issue while honoring flight attendants currently working on behalf of their company. Admirable, but was it too late? I think so. At Converseon, we set up a product called meme tracker, that analyzes the propensity for a story to become a meme, and then reports these activities via a watchdog email alert sent to the proper channels. JetBlue had to have known they had a serious problem on their hand after the surreal nature of the events transpired. Just imagine, in the 21st century web access at the touch of a button world we live in, word traveled faster than JetBlue could keep up. However, reach is JetBlue’s counterattack and they completely moved against using it, speaking with disgruntled customers and determining how to make it right.
Ultimately JetBlue will have to reassess how they use social media and whether to acknowledge Steve Slater. Internal memos are already being distributed so I’m going out on a limb when I think radio silent is not the path I’d recommend for them moving forward.
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