Citizen Journalists Are Always Ready – Are You?

May 5, 2017

by Dan Ward

In the aftermath of the United Airlines “re-accommodating” incident, we’ve seen more headlines about airlines acting badly, usually accompanied by grainy cellphone video shot by concerned passengers.

There’s blood in the water, and “citizen journalists” at airports around the country are at the ready to report on any misstep.

What happens when they leave the airport and point their cameras at your company?

Many organizations “media train” their corporate spokespersons and C-Suite executives (we prefer to call it message training, because the process works beyond the traditional media interview).  But how many are training their front-line staff, the people who interact with customers on a daily basis, and whose comments and actions will be recorded by citizen journalists as soon as anything goes wrong?

Front-line staff need to know that they work in an environment in which every action they take may be recorded and reported.  They need to understand how to communicate the company’s key message with every customer they meet, in the knowledge that their interactions may be published on a blog or podcast.  They need to understand that their actions and comments could mean the difference between a happy customer and a viral video that will cost revenue and jobs.

Are your employees ready?


This is Not a PR Gaffe.

April 13, 2017

by Roger Pynn

I knew I’d see the headline sooner or later:

6 other PR Nightmares:  United fiasco among worst corporate gaffes

 The Bloomberg story in the Orlando Sentinel said:

“When it comes to bad public relations, it’s pretty tough to top the sight of a United Airlines passenger being dragged, bloodied and screaming, from a flight.”

It went on to say:

“But the fiasco is hardly the first self-inflicted corporate blunder. Munoz can take comfort that it’s happened to others, and in many cases the bosses didn’t lose their jobs, as our PR Tales From Hell illustrate.”

Here’s the problem.  This isn’t a PR problem.  It is a management problem that caused public relations problems.  And it is a classic example of management failing to empower smart decision-making on the front lines.  When the people who engage with the public have to make decisions because of what the operations manual says instead of being empowered to make common sense decisions in the face of trouble, disaster is around the corner.

There were so many options … if only the gate staff had been trained to think for themselves.  I’m sure the folks in United’s public relations organizations would tell you the same thing.


Blame Game

September 9, 2008

by Roger Pynn

There will no doubt be questions for a long time about the devastating dip in United Airlines’ stock prices this week, and just as surely there will be many players working to distance themselves from the incident.

In an earlier post I suggested that newspapers, having put their content and their futures on the Internet, must ultimately exercise the caution that prevents misinformation such as we saw in this incident.

Pointing fingers won’t do any good. Stepping up the plate may just make newspapers relevant again.


Do We Want Watchdogs Any More?

September 9, 2008

by Dan Ward

Roger Pynn blogged yesterday about the mistakes by national media outlets that allowed a six-year-old story to nearly destroy United Airlines, questioning where all the “watchdogs” have gone.

After reading his post, and the story that led to it, I have another question to ask: Do readers even want watchdogs anymore? If one uses reader comments as a gauge, then perhaps hard news is just no longer of interest.

Three hours after the United Airlines story appeared online, only 27 reader comments had been posted. In the same time frame, readers had taken the time to post 1,600 comments regarding a breaking news story … Casey Anthony Meets With Home Confinement Manager.

Where have the watchdogs gone, Roger might ask? Apparently, they have been invited indoors, where they can sit comfortably by the fireplace as the world watches Nancy Grace.

Unfortunately, those of us who see the importance of a watchdog are no longer the target at which media arrows are aimed.


Where have all the Watchdogs Gone?

September 8, 2008

by Roger Pynn

Oh what a tangled web we’ve woven. If you’re a United Airlines shareholder you’re probably wishing Al Gore had never invented the Internet … or at least that it had come with a built-in fact checker.

Seems somewhere between one of Tribune Company’s newspaper Web sites, a Fort Lauderdale investment advisory company and Bloomberg News Service, a year-old story sent United’s stock into a tailspin today and you have to wonder how much it cost individual investors who were trying to sell.

This is just more evidence that we are in perilous times as newspapers attempt to webify themselves while also paring back their teams with the equivalent of the accounting world’s FIFO method (First In, First Out) whereby the most experienced journalists have been the first to go.

That may work when you’re accounting for inventory or dollars, but there’s no substitute for experience … and the cautionary attitude that usually accompanies it.

Readers, advertisers and the businesses whom the media expect to answer their demands for information need to demand better and we’d better start insisting that what they make available on the Internet is clear, dated and linked to the most current, factual information.


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