3 min read
Heather Aponte - Mar 28, 2018

What Crisis Communicators Can Learn from the United Airlines Debacle

Social media was outraged on March 12th when it was reported that a dog, which flight attendants mandated the bag holding the animal be stored in an overhead bin, died on a United Airlines plane. As a social intelligence platform, Digimind was able to track the negative social sentiment and commentary on the crisis:

"This latest incident could be another massive blow to United's reputation unless upper management takes control of the storm on social in an effective way,” Mohammed El Haddar , CEO of Digimind, Inc. said. “In this instance, United will need to do more than just apologize — they will need to provide solutions and reassure their wide customer base, and to do so intelligently."

Airline companies are not the only ones that are closely being scrutinized by social media companies. With the faster and more connected technology, every brand is susceptible to a brand crisis if they aren’t careful. Although crises cannot always be prevented, the fallout of customer trust and potential revenue can be mitigated easily through social media listening. As seen through the United Airlines example, it’s more important than ever that brands closely monitor how consumers are discussing a brand. Brands can use social listening to detect a potential reputation crisis by tracking:

  • Sudden spikes in brand-related posts within a short period of time; spikes that are not directly related to a campaign or product launch might have been catalyzed by a negative incident that is gaining momentum online
  • Growing or overwhelmingly negative customer sentiments toward your brand compared to competitors
  • Customer complaints that are gaining virality on social media  

Furthermore, 85% of customers talk about a brand without including their social media handle. As PR and brand managers, it is important not to miss out on important insights by only monitoring posts on your branded social media pages or posts that directly address your brand. Keywords contain clues on how people perceive your brand during and after a crisis.

Brands can use social listening to swiftly collect brand related mentions. However, it’s important to be sure these social mentions are being compared against any other mentions about the brand, including online, forums, TV, and radio. This comparison will give you a complete understanding of public perception. While sifting through social data, be sure to:

  • Identify key topics: What are the common concerns raised? Are people associating your brand with the crisis?
  • Related hashtags: It’s not uncommon for customers to band together by tagging their complaints under a derogatory hashtag. Monitor the evolution of such hashtags over time to get more insight beyond brand related mentions or customer postings on your brand’s social media pages.

Speed of response will be absolutely key in a crisis. Brands that take too long to apologize or respond to the issue can face further brand reputation damage. Depending on the seriousness of the issue, and how far it has spread, brands can either:

  • Reply to the original post, then move the discussion offline with their customer care or crisis recovery team. Doing this allows other consumers to see your team is responsive and is taking customer feedback seriously.
  • Share a sensitively worded, factual public statement on their own social media pages or on the original post.

See the power of social media listening for brand reputation by trying Digimind Social for free now.

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Written by Heather Aponte