There is no doubt that for PR and communication professionals the United Airlines incident will become a much discussed case study. It has cost the company a substantial amount financially and also damaged their reputation.
The incident has exposed the practice of overbooking which may appear normal for the airlines industry but doesn’t stand up to public scrutiny. After all if you purchase a product you expect to receive it. The actions and procedures followed were never going to be acceptable to consumers.
We all have those moments when the company we work for or represent ends up explaining why something has happened. Crisis communication will affect us all and sometimes it is firmly in the media spotlight.
As many have said, the United Airlines incident will affect confidence in the company. A few days ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much about the company but now they are firmly linked in my mind to the video I have seen.
For many businesses it is not one incident that will affect their reputation it is the many service or product failures for customers. Every day these failures can impact on confidence but as communicators they may be out of sight. They are the reason people ditch brand A and go to brand B. They are the reason people shop in store A and not store B. They are the reason people go online to share their views.
Communicators need to be ready to deal with a large reputational crisis that may appear but they also need to take account of the smaller incidents that take place on a daily basis on the frontline of service delivery because that may be as damaging.