Clock drawn with chalk on a board

When dirt hits, act fast

15th August 2017

In today’s society, technology is all around. Whoever you are, activity about you or your business can end up online and damage your brand. And as brand is something that’s important to every business, regardless of size or status, it’s important to protect it.

Take the situation that arose when a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines aeroplane in April this year, resulting in the loss of two front teeth and a broken nose. With technology at everyone’s fingertips, the incident was not only caught on camera, but was instantly shared. The news spread like wildfire and in a situation like this, quick action is required to protect a brand’s image.

Unfortunately, United Airlines’ initial action was not to hold their hands up and apologise for the actions of the firm, but to defend them. It was only the day after, probably fuelled by the heightening anger in the media, that they attempted to turn the situation around and accept responsibility. When dirt sticks, it really sticks. United Airlines were faced with a potential lawsuit and were placed in a position where reaching a settlement agreement (for an undisclosed amount) appeared to be the only way forward in order to win public favour and protect any loss of business due to a damaged reputation.

Looking from the outside in, we’ll probably never know whether the initial defensive reaction was partly driven by a concern, internally, about admitting responsibility which could have led to a lawsuit. Ironically, they ended up having to reach settlement and also deal with a dented reputation.

Negative press also serves to heighten the standards expected of businesses and, as such, less falls through the net of what’s acceptable. Just one day after the United Airlines incident, EasyJet came under fire due to an overbooked flight, which meant two passengers were removed from the aircraft, moments before take-off, due to an error. With the power of social media, it doesn’t take long for news to spread. It’s vital that companies act fast to rectify negative situations, and to deal with them correctly.

If the United Airlines incident had not occurred, it is unlikely that news of the EasyJet mishap would have made the national news on the scale that it did. There are eyes and ears everywhere and once one story has been brought to light, others won’t go unnoticed. Although EasyJet quickly apologised for the situation, perhaps a lesson learnt from United Airlines, they still have to recover their brand image and attempt to eradicate the incidents from public memory.

Regardless of the size or type of your business, if you receive negative press, or complaints, it’s important to address them immediately, to set the record straight and attempt to rectify the situation. The longer you let bad news circulate, without action, the more brand damage you will incur. However, make sure you think it through thoroughly before you act. Although your business may not be on the same scale as EasyJet or United Airlines, you still have a duty to your firm to protect its local image, as reputation goes a long way with small and medium businesses. You should monitor social media accounts and act quickly if anything negative is posted. The way you go about remedying a bad situation says a lot about you as a firm and impacts how the public perceive you. Take negative conversations offline and rectify them privately to prevent prolonging bad feeling and publicity.


Rachael Haley

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