Southwest Airlines retakes the story

17 Sep

“The publicity caught us with our pants down, quite frankly. The story has such great legs, but we have an even better sense of humor, so we’re going to jump out there and lower our fares to match the mini skirts we’ve all been hearing so much about.”

What other company could write a more innovative (and credible) ‘manufactured quote’ for a press release than this? This was Southwest Airlines that took back the story when it was widely criticized for poorly handling a situation on board.

Dan Wool at ValleyPRBlog last week wrote about the incident (involving a Hooters girl, and inappropriate clothing on a flight) and the need to apologize. That’s what the airline did.

But it leveraged the incident to issue not one but two press releases, and to lower its fares it promptly called Mini Skirt Fares. Even if someone hadn’t hear of the Hooters girl incident, this is guaranteed to make them talk about and around it.

The first press release was about the apology from President Colleen Barrett. If you’ve ever read her column in SPIRIT magazine, the in-flight pub, you’ll know that Barrett is quite the champion of new PR, and highly aware of the value of social media.

Nor was this a standard apology. Here’s her quote in that release:

From a Company who really loves PR, touche to you Kyla! … As we both know, this story has great legs, but the true issue here is that you are a valued Customer, and you did not get an adequate apology.

There are some valuable firsts here:

1. Communicating with a single customer directly through a press release.

2. Humor from the top of the totem pole in an organization, via a communication tool better known for bland communications

3. Using its positioning – FUN – to address, rather than cover up the incident

4. Damage control, fast –check the Google Juice it’s received

5. The President blogged about the incident right away, as did Brian Lusk whose post had comments critical of the airline.

It’s a classic example of taking charge of the conversation, before it takes off without you on board.


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3 responses to “Southwest Airlines retakes the story

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