When the video leaked of airline security officers forcibly dragging a passenger off an overbooked plane against his will, it was clear that United Airlines’ crisis communications plan should have kicked into high gear. With one of the best crisis communications teams and a business-savvy CEO like Oscar Munoz—who also happened to be named PRWeek’s Communicator of the Year in 2017—you would have expected the airline to handle the debacle of Flight 3411 with ease. As one of the top international airlines, United has survived numerous PR blunders in the past, including the most recent #LeggingsGate.
Unfortunately, for this latest disaster, that was not the case.
PR practitioners would argue that Munoz should have addressed the crisis head on, owning what happened on his airline and publicly apologizing to both the victim, Dr. David Dao, and the fellow Flight 3411 passengers. However, United stumbled. Well, fell flat on its face, really.
Mistake #1: United released a mediocre apology on social media where Munoz apologized for having to “re-accommodate” customers. The lack of empathy to the flight’s passengers made the CEO appear tone deaf during a looming crisis and generated thousands of negative comments across Facebook and Twitter. In fact, Facebook alone brought in more than 140,000 comments.
Mistake #2: Rather than notifying employees that an investigation was underway, Munoz issued a rather defensive employee letter calling Dao “disruptive and belligerent” and praised the officers for following procedure. No brand wants to admit guilt or wrongdoings, but at times, it’s necessary in order to survive a crisis. It’s also vital to remember that even internal communications can go public (or worse, viral).
Mistake #3: Munoz made two additional statements, each one seemingly less genuine than the last due to the “too little, too late” notion. The second social media apology that called the event “truly horrific” brought in some favorable likes, but still opened the discussion for negative reactions. The third apology, made directly by the CEO in an exclusive ABC News interview, was a step in the right direction in terms of humanizing the brand and accepting responsibility, but made it clear that the brand was really struggling.
Despite the fallout from these missteps, there are some key learnings from what United did right. Yes, hang with me, here.
- United responded immediately after the incident hit social media and while the communication verbiage wasn’t successful, it proves that social media almost always comes first. The videos were released at 7:30 p.m. and the airline responded to Twitter complaints as early as 7:37 p.m. with a formal statement going viral later that evening. Prioritizing social media and addressing customer concerns in real time are both practices that all brands should follow.
- Following the incident, United pulled back on online digital advertising in an attempt to “go dark.” Although disappearing isn’t a long-term strategy, it is a good way to avoid further attention to a brand during a sensitive time and allows the brand the time it needs to rethink its campaign messaging.
- Despite Tuesday being United’s top day for sending email blasts, its airline pulled back on scheduled messages following the incident. Reeling in regular communication efforts was a good move as United will undoubtedly have to rebuild its reputation with customers before pushing out marketing promotions.
In the upcoming weeks, it will be interesting to see how Munoz will try to revive the airline’s brand, as well as its finances. After the event, United’s stock has dropped as much as $1.4B, there are rumors of a looming lawsuit from Dao, and the video has now exploded across Chinese social media platforms fueling rumblings of a potential Chinese boycott of international travel via United. For those of us in the marketing and PR world, this PR disaster will no doubt give us a case study for better crisis communication planning.
To learn how you can protect your brand’s reputation, contact Martino Flynn today.
It’s no secret that influencer marketing has become increasingly popular in recent years, but how does a company maximize its Return On Investment (ROI)? There are a few key strategies that will assist your brand in doing so. Check out our best practices for influencer marketing below.
- Do Your Homework
The first step in any influencer marketing campaign should be to find the right influencers. You want to ensure that you’re choosing influencers who fit in with your brand and align with your brand’s values. They are going to be ambassadors for your brand, so it is integral that you’re comfortable with their content and trust that they’ll do right by your brand.
2. Be Strategic in Choosing Influencers
It is important to keep in mind that a larger following does not equate to increased effectiveness in your campaign. In fact, it is recommended to choose a few smaller-scale influencers with a high engagement, as these audiences are more likely to click through posts or, ultimately, purchase what the influencer is promoting. Additionally, it is of course beneficial to choose influencers who have audiences in your target demographic, but be careful not to limit yourself. You can also utilize influencers with adjacent audiences and overlapping audiences. For instance, if you are a beauty brand, it may make sense to recruit a few lifestyle, home, and/or fitness influencers to help increase your promotions reach.
3. Build a Relationship
The relationship between a company and its influencer should be mutually beneficial. You want to add value to your influencers’ businesses and vice versa. Sharing their content (with expressed consent, of course) promotes your influencers and also helps to build upon your business relationship.
It is also important to listen to and collaborate with your influencers. They know a lot about their following and can likely add a lot of value to your business’ promotion if you take into consideration their insight into your target audiences.
4. Allow Your Influencers To Be Creative
It can be tough to let go of some of the control in any marketing situation, but remember: your have gained their audiences by being authentic and creative, so allow them to continue to be! Any influencer campaign should be aiming to generate organic, word-of-mouth marketing and in order for this to happen, the influencers need to be free to create unique content. You can provide information about your business or product, but, ultimately, you want your influencers to promote your brand in an authentic and creative way so as not to push away their audiences. Sometimes, even a well-placed item in the background of an Instagram photo is enough to convince a following.
5. Comply with the Federal Trade Commission
It’s extremely important for your influencers to comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) standards during your promotion. This means expressly noting in their blog posts, photos, YouTube videos, etc. that they are partnering with your company. It’s also important that the thoughts and opinions of your influencers are their own and that any free products they received are disclosed.
In 2015, the FTC cracked down on Lord & Taylor for a campaign in which 50 influencers promoted the same dress, but did not disclose their partnership with the company. The dress sold out in less than a week, but Lord & Taylor was under fire for non-compliance. Compliance can be as simple as putting: “FTC DISCLAIMER: This video is sponsored by <Company Name>, but my thoughts and opinions are my own.” in the description of the post, so be sure not to overlook this simple necessity.
6. Track and Measure
It may sound intuitive, but it is extremely important to track and measure your influencer campaign. Choose your metrics, set goals and KPIs from the beginning, and communicate those expectations to your influencers. Then be sure to track the effectiveness of your promotion both throughout and after it runs and bask in the glory of your ROI.
Here at Martino Flynn, we have worked closely with clients to execute influencer marketing campaigns to drive awareness and increase product trial and sales. Check out additional information on the effectiveness of influencer marketing. If you’re interested in leveraging social media influencers for your brand, you can contact us to learn more about our influencer marketing and social media capabilities.
On Wednesday, Instagram announced that users will be able to combine up to 10 photos and video in a single post. The new Instagram update comes from community members looking to share more than just one moment in their feed—which is great news for brand storytellers and influencers.
Brands and influencers will no longer need to select one photo or post multiple times to share content with Instagram followers—adding depth to social storytelling.
Looking to test out the latest Instagram feature? It’s simple to assemble the slideshow-like gallery in just four steps.
Add photos to a gallery by tapping the plus icon at the bottom of the screen to upload a photo like you usually would. Then, tap the new icon in the bottom-right corner to select up to 10 photos and videos.
Adjust the order of the gallery by holding an image and rearranging the order in which you would like it to show up.
Edit images with all the standard Instagram filters. Note that the location tags, captions, like, and comments will apply to the entire slideshow gallery.
Post! Four blue dots along the bottom of a multi-photo post will indicate that followers should swipe through the post like a slideshow.