Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Posts Tagged ‘Airlines

Slice of Crisis Comms to go?

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Fast food contaminations continue....

One thing that has engulfed the blogosphere and web this week was the antics of some people with the IQ of a salami finding pleasure in flatulating on someone’s fast food order. Now this is nothing new. For years urban legends have been around about employees of Mc Dougals spitting in hamburgers or Ken’s Fried Chicken ejaculating into the coleslaw so this was no surprise that bored pizza employees would do this, but two things did surprise me:

The first surprise was the PR buzz that this created on the web. Incidents like this have been around in one form or another from the dawn of time – and well before the internet was ever invented. Imagine the PR office in Rome when they caught wind of the Semon on the Mount? The obvious thing to PR professionals is: it’s not the buzz, but the response, and in a situation like this, the speed of reply. Whether a member of your staff has soiled a burger with body fluid or your drunken employee has just sailed 1.5 million barrels of crude oil onto a reef in Alaska, getting out the message as quickly as you can is the most important thing to limit brand damage. And in situations like this no-one does it better than the airline industry.

In crisis situations I think every PR professional, regardless of industry or vertical sector, should take a leaf out of the airline industry’s book- and I’m surprised Domino’s didn’t. These people are crisis comms veterans. They have bibles of the stuff and every time a plane goes down they roll their communications out with surgical accuracy. More importantly, the airline industry has a knack of moving the focus of the story from the loss of life, which is devastating to any brand, and onto another factor in the story which takes the brunt of the blame. Whether it is debris on the runway or a hero crew member – shift the focus and the story will contain itself. This is where Domino’s missed the boat.

By focusing the story on Twitter, YouTube and social networks bringing the culprits to justice, how this was global netizens working together to weed out injustice and wrong doing, I think the story would have taken a better turn. This would have taken the focus away from the apology and turned a negative into a positive. BA did this brilliantly with the Boeing 777 that came down at the end of the Heathrow runway – focusing on the ‘heroic’ crew to distract from questions about BA’s maintenance record- and I think Domino’s should have done the same.

Their comms may still shift, but speed is now of the essence.

Matt L


Written by pilotlight

17/04/2009 at 10:54 am

Machine 1 Human 0

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The sad truth

I’m trying to book some flights at the moment and went into the local high street travel agent in Putney to see what was on offer. I had a good chat with a sales advisor and she was broadly very helpful. There was a little bit of trouble with one leg of the journey though and she needed to wait for the airline to get back to her. No drama, she’ll call me when she hears back. Only she didn’t and I had to chase her. I looked up the number of the travel agent on the web, rang them up, and found I’d come through to a central number.

Now surely that wouldn’t matter? This is, after all, the 21st century. We hear all the time about the importance of customer service and there is a whole industry devoted to CRM systems to make the customer experience better. But apparently it does matter. I was told: “I can’t help you because obviously we have different systems, you’ll have to ring the local office in Putney.”

This got me thinking: “obviously we have different systems” – does that really wash anymore? It was the same company after all – surely my relationship is with the company, not with one person in one of their offices? They clearly had some sort of booking and customer tracking system because I was entered on it in the shop. I just find it frustrating that I had to speak to the same person as before to be able to progress my query.

For a company in the business of servicing customers, they seem to have missed a massive trick here. If the information about my query was made available to all the people I speak to, my experience would have been so much better and I wouldn’t be writing this. Maybe I’m over simplifying the issue here, but I see so many case studies of companies putting the customer at the centre and implementing simple processes and systems to do this, that I find it hard to take when I’m told the “computer says no.”


Written by pilotlight

21/04/2008 at 10:45 am

A masterclass of ‘Don’t!’ from BA

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Oh dear

I have not been personally affected but the T5 fiasco really is a case study of what can go wrong with a big, high-profile project on a marcomms and basic business level. I forgot all about the opening, but at Inferno Towers we all could not help but notice the festival of euphemisms that spewed from BA and BAA on the first terrible day – terms like ‘baggage performance issues’ and ‘staff familiarisation problems’ represented the worst part of spin vocab. A kind of marcomms political correctness where language itself is bent and broken to try to take the sting out of a real issue, but just provokes mockery from readers and anger from the affected. Fleet Street veteran Anthony Hilton, now with the Evening Standard, wrote a majesterial piece yesterday listing the failures on every level and it is well worth a read.

In terms of crisis comms the old idea of taking responsibility, providing clear and timely info to the affected and taking visible steps to remedy the problem was rejected in favour of a fog of words and denials that would have shamed a Post-Modern literature seminar.

As Hilton writes, businesses stripped bare of middle managers are left as struggling organisations of low level, virtually unseen executors of a strategy devised by executives in ivory towers who get their information late and manage down by uninformed diktat. Willie Walsh has a rep as a very able executive in his industry, but few leaders can survive open mockery like this game hosted by the Metro. Stay tuned, and look out for some deeply discounted flights in the near future.


Written by pilotlight

02/04/2008 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Business, Media, PR

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PR takes flight

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Still coolLast week the Inferno control tower in Hammersmith was alerted to British Airways flight BA038 from Beijing landing short of the runway at Heathrow. Once again the way this was handled was a great example of efficient issues management processes airlines have in place. We imagined that once it was radioed into the BA PR office that one of their planes has gone down, they will have reached into the file marked “Plane landing short of the runway at Heathrow” and will have rolled out a press release, pilot statement and list of roles an responsibilities, most probably written when the Wright Brothers climbed into the skies, changed the date and jettisoned it off to the press.

Now I don’t want to run over how great the PR response was, as many PR blogs will have talked about this and because, in all honesty, it really isn’t that interesting. This scenario will have been planned and rehearsed so many times this will have been as familiar to them as boarding the aircraft. What will be interesting from a PR point of view will be whether there is any response from both BA and Boeing following the investigation.

Boeing is currently locked in a fierce battle with Airbus to try and reclaim their place as the worlds largest aircraft manufacturer. News of their current flagship model, the Boeing 777 (a plane that is only 13 years old this year), mysteriously falling out of the sky at Heathrow won’t go down well with the company’s board or with shareholders. This news also comes in a bad week for Boeing. This week the aircraft manufacturer announced the delay in the delivery of its next model, the 787 Dreamliner, which sent its share price falling nearly 5% and with the news of the crash the share price fell further still with a close to 2% drop.

With BA blaming the planes avionics the PR radar would suggest the investigation will only yield three possible outcomes: pilot error or poor maintenance -, laying the blame at BA’s door – or a manufacturing fault – laying the blame with Boeing. With Boeing trying to allay share holders fears that the company is not on a slippery slope, and BA trying to shake the reputation of poor service and a stock price that has been falling since this time last year, both sides may need to use the PR afterburner in the days following the outcomes from the investigation.

So at the Inferno control tower we will watch with great interest to see whether a PR dogfight will break out and should we see a bogey on the six of either BA or Boeing we will be sure to keep you posted.

So keep your eyes to the skies….. or in the papers at least….

Matt L

Written by pilotlight

21/01/2008 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Media, PR

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