Social Media Crisis Communications Case Study – United Airlines Breaks Guitars

“Markets are Conversations.” 10 years after the Cluetrain manifesto, it is more true than ever. Take the following conversation. A person has an “experience” with a brand. This experience moves the person so much that they decide to create a YouTube video – not just a talking head one either. A fully produced song, telling the story of that experience. And within 12 days, that video has generated over 2.3 million views, exposing that brand and its story to the public. The story even made the LA Times, and AdAge.
Ok, now imagine the story is bad, and everyone who sees it thinks your company and its representatives (called out by name in the song) are idiots. Ok, stop imagining, and welcome to United Airlines’ waking nightmare – a Crisis Communications Case Study and a case for Social Media consultants to share with brand managers for years to come.
Dave Carroll, a musician, sees his $3500 guitar being THROWN by airline baggage handlers on a stopover in Chicago. He tries to alert airline personnel, but they don’t listen. He confirms the damage when he arrives at his destination but doesn’t file a formal complaint till his trip back one week later. (Because, hey, maybe he’s busy trying to make a living and you’ve just damaged the instrument he uses to make said living.) Continue reading