United Airlines: Fly the “Friendly” Skies?

It is hard to imagine that a consumer brand as strong as United Airlines would find itself in a position where a brief jaw-dropping video would crush the company’s image. David Dao, a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor, was hospitalized after Chicago aviation police dragged him from the plane to make space for four crew members on the flight from the city’s O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky.

Adding fuel to fire was CEO Oscar Munoz’s initial response that lacked empathy for the passenger’s painful injuries and failed to understand the impact of the viral video.

Even after an employee leaked an internal memo to the press that tossed another log onto the inferno, it was days later before the company would issue a meaningful response. Watch here as Munoz says he felt ‘shame’ after seeing viral video of bloodied passenger.

In addition, passengers have rated “getting bumped” from overbooked flights among the top criticisms of the airline industry (right next to late arrivals/departures). Regulators and elected officials are also using this incident to call for industry-wide changes.

My Thoughts…

In most commercial airline mishaps, aviation experts say there was usually a long chain of events and errors that lead to the devastating crash – not just one. It might explain what happened to United before, during and after this incident.

United has capable corporate communications, social media and branding marketing teams consisting of some of the most respected professionals in the industry. Last month, Munoz even was named U.S. Communicator of the Year by PRWeek magazine. You must believe that these public relations experts wouldn’t just stand idly by while this viral video circulated like wildfire and negative conversations on social media spiked.

interestingly, there have been several recent stories about passengers who received “rough” or unfavorable treatment by United employees during the past few weeks. For example, two women wearing leggings were barred from boarding in Chicago (same airport).

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. United might want to revamp its overbooking policies.
  2. There might be an ongoing customer service issue, especially at the Chicago airport.
  3. Employees might not have followed the procedures for handling passengers who insist on not being bumped.
  4. The security team might have used excessive force and needs to be retrained.
  5. United might not have had guidelines for mitigating situations like this – responding to passenger videos that damage the company’s brand.
  6. A breakdown in the communications team might have led to the CEO issuing non-apology statements.
  7. United’s legal counsel might have advised the CEO to approach the situation with too much caution.
  8. United failed to remember that all employee communications could be leaked to the public and the press. These documents must be drafted with this in mind.
  9. United must remember that it is the passenger who owns and controls the brand.
  10. Social media can compound any crisis situation. In addition to spreading negative news, users nowadays will poke fun at a situation with memes and trending hashtags, further extending the crisis.

It appears United’s competitors moved in quickly to take advantage of the company’s wounded image.

Look for United to launch an extensive re-branding campaign focused on the consumer (passenger) to reclaim its “Friendly Skies” status.





How the Media Should Respond to Trump’s Social Media Rants

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. He contributed a column to CNN regarding how the media should respond to President-elect Donald Trump’s social media rants on Twitter. The article includes a video segment from a CNN interview with social media expert Jim Anderson about the impact of Trump’s tweets.


Crisis PR Plans Should Now Include How to Handle Attacks from Fake News Sites

Fake news stories show no sign of abating and are afflicting businesses as many had feared. PR pros may now need to add attacks in fake news to their PR crisis plans.

Read the entire article and review suggested strategies here: http://glean.info/pr-crisis-plans-must-now-include-fake-news-attacks/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=referral&utm_medium=email

The New York Times Issues Official Apology for Biased and Unethical News Reporting

new-york-times-logoArthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher, and Dean Baquet, executive editor, of The New York Times have issued an official apology regarding the nation’s most influential newspaper’s coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign: Click here to read the NY Times

The New York Post reacts: Click here to read the NY Post



Presidential Disaster – How the Mainstream Press Failed America

The very foundations of journalism and media ethics were shaken to their cores during the 2016 presidential election. Possibly the biggest slap in the face to Americans were the befuddled and flummoxed looks on the faces of the news anchors as Trump was declared the winner state by state throughout the night.


Even today as crowds of protestors flood the streets in outrage, the press has sheepishly admitted that they did not act in the public interest. The mainstream media will continue to lose public trust unless they are willing to admit that they were the key players in misleading the public to fulfill their own agendas.

These revelations should not only disgust voters (no matter who they supported), it calls into the question how organizations determine “the news” based on their own opinions, how members of the media “look down” on issues and people, how many reporters misinterpret information or don’t understand it, how the press will collectively launch campaigns to bring people down, and the how the many reporters are arrogant, insulated, and refuse to blame themselves for this mess.

Based on my experiences in broadcast news and public relations, I have drawn the following conclusions about the mainstream press:

  1. They never once seriously considered the fact that Donald Trump could be president, often laughing hysterically at the possibility.
  2. Gave Trump billions and billions of dollars of free uninterrupted air time since the day he announced his candidacy, for ratings.
  3. Prevented all other candidates and dissenting voices from gaining television exposure, on purpose.
  4. Blurred the lines between news and news entertainment, on purpose.
  5. Ignored the real issues.
  6. Ignored Middle America.
  7. Ignored millennials.
  8. Ignored African-Americans.
  9. Ignored Latinos.
  10. Insulted Trump supporters by labeling them as “uneducated whites.”
  11. Forced viewers to seek news and information elsewhere online.
  12. Refused to believe that Americans, namely white women, would tolerate and vote for a “con-artist,” a “racist,” a “Russian-lover” and a “sexist.”
  13. Claimed Trump, his campaign, and his supporters threatened them.
  14. Relied on flawed polls that said “Trump had no path to victory.”
  15. Relied on flawed polls that said “there was no hidden Trump vote.”
  16. Threw gasoline on the “US vs THEM” conflict dividing America, hoping that it will continue.
  17. Despite impressions, have very little resources to understand and interpret how the world is changing and what it means for us.

I don’t believe the press is “liberal.” However, newsrooms are managed by people who believe their opinions are the only ones that matter, and that they are NEVER wrong.

This blog will explore these issues as we enter new and unexplored territory during the next few weeks. My theories are my own, but I will support them with evidence. Until I observe that the mainstream press has in fact learned for its mistakes, I will continue to questions everything I see on the news.



SC Leaders Attempt to Prevent A Ferguson-Like Crisis Following A Videotaped Police Shooting That Stunned The Nation

Screen shot from amateur video

In what could be described as a swift and highly-organized response, elected and community leaders in South Carolina avoided escalating a crisis involving a shocking police involved shooting that was captured on video in North Charleston. It seems many agencies learned important lessons following a similar incident in Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown last year. The slow communications response, lack of visibility, poor community outreach, and inconsistent statements all added fire to heated protests in the city, sparked viral outrage on social media, and ignited numerous protests in many other cities across the country.

It was clear that those who were in charge of the North Charleston investigation and communications team properly identified all of essential the stakeholders and kept them well informed on the latest developments. The spokespeople expressed genuine concern and were effective in providing available details to the public.

1. The mayor of North Charleston held a timely media briefing where he expressed sympathy and said the city accepted responsibility. “When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. When you make a bad decision, don’t care if you’re behind the shield or a citizen on the street, you have to live with that decision,” he said.

2. The Governor of South Carolina issued an immediate statement declaring, “We have many good law enforcement officers in the field. What happened in this case is not acceptable in South Carolina, nor is it reflective of our values or of the way most of our law enforcement officials act, and I assure all South Carolinians that the criminal judicial process will proceed fully. This is a sad time for everyone in South Carolina, and I urge everyone to work together to help our community heal.”

3. The leaders also informed the NAACP and the victim’s family so that an earlier scheduled press conference was delayed. We could assume that the city and state would have been criticized for responding to unanswered questions.

Even though the city will have to handle a series of emotionally-charged public demonstrations (All Lives Matter), it will be critical for it to maintain a positive relationship with the community and the media as the case against the accused police officer goes to trial.

Read the New York Times article here.


The opposite is happening in the city of Miami Gardens where a police officer killed a mentally-ill man. The attorney for the family plans to release a police dashcam video that contradicts what was reported to the public. It’s described as a bombshell. The City is remaining silent.

Read the Miami New Times story here.

City of Cleveland Issues Apology After Publicly Blaming 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice in Police-Involved Shooting

The lack of sympathy expressed following the police-involved shooting of a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun has created a community relations nightmare for the City of Cleveland. Even though there is a pending lawsuit, the city’s actions are making the situation regarding the death of Tamir Rice worse as word spreads across the nation in an atmosphere of heightened sensitivities.

It is a common practice among law enforcement agencies to “demonize” criminals and suspects in the press to create a positive public impression about the department activities. However, we advise using extra caution, especially in cases involving children or when the agency’s actions are under scrutiny.

Shooting of boy who had fake gun

12-year-old Tamir Rice

Review Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s apology here…