Flying the Not-so-Friendly Skies

Earlier this year I wrote about how companies should handle public relations gaffes.  In “And the Winner Isn’t,” I held up PWC as an example of how to handle a PR disaster after one of their executives handed Warren Beatty the envelope for Best Actress instead of Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  You’ve probably forgotten about the incident and there’s a good reason for that – PWC owned the mistake and issued an apology – a real apology.  Fortunately for PWC, there were lots of other things happening at the time to pique the media’s interest.  We’ve moved on.  

I’m sure Mr. Munoz’s comments were reviewed by legal and may have been technically correct.  But, it doesn’t matter if you’re technically right – only if you do the right thing.  While United Airlines may end up in a courtroom over the incident (and doubtless they will) the real damage comes in the court of public opinion.  At the end of the day, people want to hear only three things from you when your company screws up:  We did it and we’re sorry.  We’ll fix it.  We’ll figure out why it happened and make sure it never happens again.