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Southwest airlines averts pr crisis via social media
Southwest airlines averts pr crisis via social media
Southwest airlines averts pr crisis via social media
Southwest airlines averts pr crisis via social media
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Southwest airlines averts pr crisis via social media


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  • 1. Southwest Airlines Averts PR Crisis via Social MediaNews Travels Fast via Social MediaWith social media functioning as an important platform where information is exchanged andexperiences are talked about, companies and marketers need to constantly stay alert and monitorconversations pertaining to their brand. A recent incident involving the front man of a popular rockband and a US-based airline shows just how fast news travels via social media and how crucial it isfor a brand to respond quickly to protect its image.Southwest Airlines and Green Day’s Billie Joe; What Happened This Time AroundWhen Green Day singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong boarded Southwest Airlines, little did he knowhis sagging pants would cost him a seat on the flight. Following an argument with the flightattendant who asked him hike his pants higher, Armstrong and his traveling companion were askedto get off the plane. The airlines‟ refusal to seat the singer translated into a PR nightmare, withArmstrong immediately taking to Twitter to vent his displeasure. The message, “Just got kicked offa southwest flight because my pants sagged too low! What the –? No joke!”, was posted on theband‟s official website as well. Reminds you of an earlier episode? Not so long ago, Southwestremoved Hollywood director Kevin Smith from their flight because he was too large for one seat.This was subsequently followed by Smith, like the guitarist, blowing off steam by tweeting aboutthe incident (an earlier analysis by Position² shows how this episode played out in social media).For Southwest Airlines, this was nothing short of déjà vu.How Southwest RespondedAs previously, the airline did not waste too muchtime before responding. The crisis managementteam at Southwest acted quickly by apologizingover Twitter and released a statement expressingregret over what happened. “As soon as webecame aware of what had happened, wereached out to apologize for this customer‟s experience,” the statement read. “He elected to take the next flight. Wefollowed up with this customer and involved employees to get more details and, in our latest conversations,understand from the customer the situation was resolved to his satisfaction.”The Social Media BuzzThe digital space was abuzz with conversations when Green Day fans caught a wind of what happened. Analysis by theBrand Monitor team at Position² shows (for the time period between 9th August 2011 and 8th September 2011) showsthat:Top Media Breakdown© Position2, Inc. 1
  • 2. Twitter and news sites accounted for maximum conversation volumes at 29% each. While news sites reported what happened, Twitter came alive with discussions involving fans. This was followed by Facebook, which registered 25% volumes.Twitter Sentiment AnalysisWith Armstrong having used Twitter to voice his indignation, we analyzed the sentiment on the microblogging site tofind out how fans felt about the episode. According to our findings: 55% of the buzz was neutral in tonality. Most of the fans simply reported what happened, without any bias toward the singer or the airlines. The negative conversations, at 21%, were mostly retweets of the original message tweeted by Armstrong. Also, someGreen Day fans were disappointed with the airlines for having such stringent standards. 24% of the conversations were positive, as some people felt that Southwest did the right thing by asking the singer to disembark for dressing inappropriately.Overall Sentiment and Conversation Volumes Southwest Airlines, which had otherwise managed to maintain a healthy brand image, witnessed a massive increase in negative sentiment across social media channels after the incident. The highest negative conversations were registered on 2nd September at 1,084, closely followed by 1,073 mentions the next day. This could also be because many fans were reminded of a previous episode involving Kevin Smith, which reinforced the feeling that Southwest did not value their customers.© Position2, Inc. 2
  • 3. ConclusionThe incident involving Billie Joe Armstrong and Southwest Airlines indicates how social networking sites like Facebookand Twitter have made news a participatory experience. Unlike earlier, when brands and marketers had ample timeto resolve a crisis situation, the real-time nature of social media calls for a quick response. In this case, Southwest‟sresponse to the situation is a benchmark on how brands should monitor and manage a PR emergency. What worked infavor of the airline is their 24/7 media monitoring and also the fact that they prioritized diffusing the situation overadopting a defensive approach. Also, not blocking out the negative comments (a wise move, unlike Nestle) showed the„human‟ side of Southwest. Fans and followers not only appreciated the transparency, but also how the airline openlyapologized via Twitter.This episode also highlights the emergence of a rapidly growing trend; the use of Twitter as platform to share newsand information, especially in the case of famous personalities. Similar to Kevin Smith, Armstrong, with his + 174,000strong fans, was certainly an influencer. With followers hanging on to every tweet posted by Armstrong, it was crucialfor Southwest to tread carefully. The gradual dip in conversation volumes shows that Southwest successfully managedto prevent the situation from blowing out of proportion by remaining calm, reacting fast and responding withmaturity.We believe that timeliness is everything when dealing and defusing a crisis. This, along with a solid communicationsplan, can help prepare a brand for that occasional social media mishap.© Position2, Inc. 3
  • 4. About Position2Position2 is a Search and Social Media Marketing firm that delivers continuous growth for our clients using ourproprietary “Surround and Intent” Marketing Methodology, delivered by our products. Our proprietary methodology isa result of years of experience in working with diverse clients to deliver customer acquisition goals through searchengine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), and Pay Per Click (PPC) and online media advertising.Position2 was founded in 2006 with funding from Accel Venture Partners, and has offices in Palo Alto, Bangalore andMumbai. Position2 is a certified agency with Google, Yahoo, Bing and is also part of the Google Adwords advisorycouncil.Position2s flagship product is Position2 Brand MonitorTM, a platform that allows users to listen, discover and engagewith social media conversations in real time. With a team of over 100 professionals, Position2 also provides expertisein online marketing solutions: SEO, PPC, Media and Advertising.Position2 works with leading global brands:This article is also available on the Position2 Blog: more information, visit or email© Position2, Inc. 4