I was booked for an 8:40 pm flight from Portland to LA on Saturday, March 26. Since I had the day to myself and the weather was iffy, I was on the computer catching up … in between visits to facebook and LinkedIn. While on facebook, I spotted a post from Alaska Airlines about a major computer breakdown, resulting in many delayed and cancelled flights, and warning passengers to check the status of their particular flight. Sure enough, I found I was delayed from 8:40 to 11:40 pm. I registered for the text alerts and went back to work after finding out I couldn’t get on an earlier flight.
Another post from Alaska with more information. Then a text alert, my flight was delayed until 1:30 am and wouldn’t get into LA until 3:30 am. Total bummer. Yet I was VERY happy I had found out before I headed to the airport … and then got stuck there until 1 am.
Later that night, another posting of a video message from the company leadership. Straightforward, explaining the problem, apologizing for the error and giving people a connection to call as well as a promise that they will make it right. They specifically acknowledged 12,000 people were affected.
I fly Alaska whenever I can
Now I’m glad I demonstrated my loyalty to Alaska by clicking “Like” on Facebook. If I hadn’t, I would not have learned about the flight delay. I would have been more frustrated and tired hanging out at the airport for an extra five hours … and most likely, would have been every upset with Alaska. Instead I was kept informed and was able to adjust my plans a bit.
There are some great marketing and communication lessons here …
- It’s always good to over communicate when there is a crisis
- Reach your audiences wherever they may be, with whatever medium you have available
- Provide straightforward information and explanation about the problem or issue
- Accept responsibility
- Provide a next step, conclusion, action for those affected
My huge compliments to Alaska Airlines for the way they handled the crisis. And congratulations for using social media at its most powerful. The comments I have seen (many) to the Alaska posts are almost universally positive. I’m certain (though I don’t know for sure) they also used other media outlets to communicate as fully as possible.
This is truly a demonstration of brand optimization. Knowing a brand is made up of experiences, perceptions and stories, Alaska managed the experience of a major problem, created a positive perception by maximizing their communication, and provided clear and straightforward information to defuse negative stories, which are often based on bad information.
Communications change more quickly than we realize
What would have happened ten years ago, before Facebook? Before I had a smartphone to keep up with Facebook, even after arriving at the airport? Although my email address was attached to my reservation, their computer system was down … and calling everyone would have been out of the question.
It’s another “aha” moment. Communication methods and styles change over time, often more quickly than we realize. Attitudes shift. Access to information transforms. New opportunities come up, yet old methods may also be appropriate. It’s not only important to have a crisis plan in place, it’s vital to the effectiveness of your marketing program to incorporate the new methods to reach your audiences where they are and how they’re communicating.
What would you have done? How would you have communicated? It’s certainly worth spending a few moments planning … and looking at how you’re communicating today, tomorrow and next year with your audiences.
Related posts … targeting your audiences, social media, optimizing your brand
The way Alaska Airlines handled their crisis built their brand, optimizing their relationship with customers where those customers were interacting. We’ve posted further insights on audiences and social media … click on the links below.
- Is your audience on Facebook?
- Twitter guidelines for business
- Facebook vs. online, inbound marketing
- What is a “point of choice?”
- Personas create audience definition
- Marketing mistake: Different generations don’t matter