By now you’ve no doubt heard of the recent case of “air rage” involving a JetBlue flight attendant. (Click here for a recap.) It’s become a larger-than-life story that has elevated Steven Slater to a household name and, for many, to the status of working class hero (despite, mind you, actions warranting felony charges of criminal mischief and reckless endangerment).
So how has JetBlue responded to the unflattering news coverage? Through a single blog post.
There are two things of interest regarding this approach: first, it’s a complete 180 from 2007, when then-CEO David Neeleman spent an entire 24-hour news cycle apologizing profusely to the nation (via Today Show, Late Show, New York Times, etc.) for an operational fiasco that grounded thousands of JetBlue travelers. Second, it appears to have been quite effective. The blog post, equal parts self-deprecation and legalese, has done more than serve as an artful way of saying “no comment.” According to one study, the tone of the online buzz about JetBlue improved significantly on the day the entry was posted compared to the previous day.
This goes against conventional wisdom when it comes to crisis communications – that is, show action and validate concern. JetBlue took no action and didn’t do much to validate concern, other than to thank their 2,300 inflight crew members for, well, not acting like Steven. Certainly, there’s never a cookie cutter approach to crisis communications. In this case, as FastCompany suggests, perhaps the lesson learned is that “sometimes the best response to a PR disaster is a single blog post and a tight-lipped smile.”