Clean PR

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JetBlue gets accolades for crisis communications

It’s not so often that a company actually gets rewarded for its ability to handle a crisis situation. But JetBlue has done just that and has nice article, JetBlue response praised, in today’s San Francisco Chronicle by David Lazarus. I found the following old notes on crisis communications from when I first started in PR. Most of the fundamentals are there but there’s a distinct difference that I would argue separates JetBlue’s success in dealing with this situation from the norm: the person driving the plan (at least according the article) is JetBlue’s CEO, David Neeleman, rather the PR department. PR can of course define and execute the plan, and make recommendations about business choices that would confront the situation, but deciding to give customer vouchers for delayed flights and taking out ads in newspapers around the country to apologize is something that needs buy-in from the top of an organization.

The point: similar to telling a green or sustainable business story, a bottom-up approach where things start and end in the communications department doesn’t go too far in a crisis. You need support from the top. Even better, you need the management to be the advocates. Even if you don’t make a perfect decision, your business will almost always be rewarded for sincerely confronting a situation from the top. My old notes…

Crisis Communication Plan

A. Discuss the facts. There is a quick and simple way to deliver a fix to all of the users that would be affected. Performance problems will be pre-empted.

B. Situation. Press and analysts are following product progress very carefully; any bug or problem will be identified by product followers extremely quickly.

C. Strategy. Confront the situation openly, honestly and quickly with key audiences. Do not attempt to keep the “problem” quiet.

  • Appoint key executives to crisis communication team; appoint one member of the team as primary contact between team and public; appoint a secondary contact for issues where primary spokesperson is not available.
  • Ensure all employees are educated about crisis procedures.
  • Create press materials and messaging to communicate situation to all key audiences: employees, customers, vendors, and media and analysts.
  • Appoint agency team to continually monitor the media for signs of escalation; if the situation escalates, be prepared to quickly make adjustments.
  • Make the situation a management priority; every key decision maker must be available to act and meet quickly if needed.

D. Message. The situation will be fixed before any customers are impacted. Use this as an opportunity, not a threat. Showcase great company leadership, and call attention to the ability to act quickly and honestly, thus increasing corporate visibility in a positive way and strengthening the brand image. Technology companies often hide problems and lose customer loyalty; confronting the problem and showing integrity and honesty to the customers will be a key message and way to garner respect among the audience.

E. The situation has been resolved. Put together a post-crisis summary report, including the crisis cause, extent and tone of media coverage, suggested improvements to the crisis response process, ways to implement those changes, and possible alterations to company policy and procedures.

Another good article: JetBlue Steps up to Rebuild Trust in 1to1 Weekly.

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February 25, 2007 - Posted by | public relations, sustainable business

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