Another airline bites the PR dust…

Rather than wax lyrical about all the PR and crisis management methodologies, theories and frameworks Delta Airlines should have used (you know all that, from United’s fiasco), I want to look at this from an employee branding perspective.

When a competitor sticks their head above the parapet and things go horribly wrong, many companies sit back, watch and possibly laugh: “That’ll never happen to us!”. Some might be sympathetic. All fairly natural responses. Why not trade off ‘we beat the competition, not our passengers’…? What an opportunity?!

But, in fact, what every good airline should have done following United Airlines’ PR fiasco was to sit back and watch, yes, but also to observe, take notes – and learn and act.

What should have taken place fundamentally within all airline companies was employee training. Every airline should have revisited its own values, its own policies and carried out a review of ‘how we do things’ and how ‘this will not happen to us’…

As humans, we’re so quick to judge the differences between ourselves and others: other cultures; other companies, but what we should all be looking for is the similarities. It’s so easy to assume that ‘it won’t happen to us’, but why not? How can we ensure it doesn’t?

If United wasn’t a lesson to us all, Delta Airways should be. No one should be hassling customers with infants. Whatever the product, service, brand. This should be common sense for most of us as civilised human beings, but sadly, this is lacking in today’s society… So how can you make sure your employees understand this fundamental expectation; at least when representing your brand?

Employees need to be brought along with everything your brand stands for: how it does business, how it talks about business and how it leaves the customer feeling. But this is not the responsibility of your employees. This is your job, as leaders within the business. How do you ensure your employees understand the brand – and most importantly of all, buy into the brand?

At risk of blowing the trumpet for one particular airline, @RichardBranson shared a blog post in early April alluding to how he believes employees should be empowered. The main takeaway from this for me, as far as employee branding goes, is the difference between rules and common sense. A strong brand which focuses as much on engendering values in its staff as its customers can simply get on with delivering the good service it promises.

Of course Virgin is not saintly when it comes to complaints but, for any company, how your employees handle the complaint and the customer is where the value of your brand lies. So once they’ve bought into it, how do your employees deliver on the brand promise you’re making?

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