If you haven’t already come across it, US Airways tweeted an image as an insult to an unhappy customer yesterday that has left our (and everybody else’s) jaws on the ground!
All I can say is WTF US Airways!! Who have you hired to be your frontline and what were you thinking? Although some may say this is good publicity, I can bet that senior management over at the airline is in entire disagreement – as are TONS of their customers.
Why is it so often that we find airlines at the heart of published gaffes and thoughtless (with major repercussions) posts to social media? I think that there is a need for some major internal re-evaluating in today’s biggest airline companies. If for nothing else, than for the sake of risk management.
Alright, before I reveal the very graphic tweet tweeted by the airline, let me first post the airline’s response to the incident:
We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.
— US Airways (@USAirways) April 14, 2014
If you do a quick search for #USAirways, you’ll notice that, yes some people are shocked and upset, but the majority of the sentiment is that US Airways is now seen as a joke. For an organization that revolves around safety and being taken seriously, being seen as a joke is a very serious and negative association to their brand (which they have spent millions upon millions on through the years trying to shape their image) and has resulted in a ton of unwanted attention and can ultimately have some very serious negative repercussions.
On the other hand, it was the fault of the employee, the tweeter (yes, that they hired and trusted) but the appropriate actions from here on out can help them salvage their reputation. Though this is true, the reality is that no matter what they do, this one will be hard to live down for a while…
The outrageous tweet
If you’ve noticed, I haven’t shown you the graphic image that was tweeted by the airline yet… I contemplated posting it at all because of its vulgar content. Though we are all adults who read this blog, and though I’m not one to be sensitive, I still feel like it’s a little too graphic to be published to this post for all of eternity. That said, I’ll make you click here if you want to see it. But I warn: the content within this tweet – that was tweeted publicly by US Airways – is graphic and may be unsettling for some. Though if you choose, have a look and see what all the fuss is about!
The oh-so-important lesson
DO NOT do this – or anything like it – from your organization’s Twitter (or other social media) account(s). Make sure that you engage professional and mature people to manage your social media accounts – your frontline. Vet, test and train. Your frontline is directly related to your organization’s reputation. Be wise in your selections, policies and choices.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
Kathleen Roy says
I came across this post while doing some research on crisis communications, not US Airways, but have to comment because my family and I flew US Airways/American Airlines last week and it was hands down the most awful experience we've ever had from start to finish. Too funny.
Kathleen Roy says
I looked at the picture after submitting my last comment and all I can come up with is… nothing, actually. I'm speechless. Can't wait to hear how this one plays out! Yikes!
Great post, Melissa (as usual).
The airline announced they would not fire the person who sent out the tweet.
In the instance of the Red Cross', #gettinshizzled mishap, they announced that the Red Cross deals with life & death issues all the time-this wasn't one of them.
At what point do you forgive or fire?
Melissa Agnes says
It really depends on the company and the story behind the incident. In the Red Cross's case, it was a case of human error and they managed that situation beautifully. In this case with US Airways, going on the basis of what they've said was the cause of the incident (an accident), they made the right move to not fire the employee (in my opinion). However, whether or not we believe their reasoning to the incident itself is another question…
Well, this one is new to me. Hadn't heard about it or seen it.
But my first thought is, "What did @ellerafter originally post to engender that kind of a response?" Of course the post and accompanying picture are stupid. In case no one noticed, it is pornographic. Why in the world would US Air want that kind of picture associated with its name?
So many unanswered questions.
Melissa Agnes says
I don't think the airline wants that image associated with its brand. They claim it was an honest mistake made by the tweeter. However, there are certainly other questions that come to mind in this situation…
If I were to take a guess, someone first tweeted them that picture, they copied the url to send it to a friend in a private message or email, they then proceeded to respond back to their customers with a paste to a link they thought was a form to fill out, only it was the link to the pic. If that's how it happened, that might also explain why the employee wasn't fired. Honest mistake rather than intentional.
OMG…lol you weren't kidding about being a graphic tweet!
Sonali Kapoor says
An outrageous tweet that has made US Airways a laughing stock. Digital world can be a dark place if not utilised appropriately.
Could this be a malicious act of a disgruntled employee? If so, would a tweet stating ‘investigations are on’ suffice?
This brings us to the question of what mode of communications should an organisation adopt in this case? How does an organisation assess the gravity of a social media crisis that has a tendency to go overboard easily?
Melissa Agnes says
Great question Sonali!
There are a number of different things to look at, such as emotional impact, relatability, potential longevity of the impact of the situation, etc.