The Role of Social Media in JetBlue's PR Nightmare

By Matter

JetBlue found itself in a pretty big predicament yesterday when one of their captains emerged from the cockpit mid-air screaming “They are going to take us down!”, had to be restrained and forced an emergency landing.  I can’t even imagine the horror the passengers and crew felt – and was right along with everyone who collectively sighed with relief that no one was hurt.   From a PR perspective, most brands immediately kick into “crisis communications” when something of this caliber happens.  But, I get the sense that wasn’t the case with JetBlue.  I get the sense that they just did what they do really, really well – and they simply communicated.

The first thing I saw was their statement that they quickly shared on their Facebook page.  It was straight-up – and read like a police report.  To me, this showed they were concerned about getting the right story out there.  No spin, just the facts.  They continued to update the statement, as appropriate.    They also took to Twitter, posted the statement and then made it a Promoted Tweet to make sure it stayed at the top of their Twitter page for easy access.    They responded (and continue to respond) to Tweets which mostly either directed people to the statement or thanked them for their support. CEO Dave Barger also talked to the TODAY Show’s Matt Lauer to comment on the situation and to compliment the crew and “customers” on how they handled the situation.  Regarding the captain, he simply said that he was, until now, a consummate professional and is getting “medical help.”

The captain will be suspended and JetBlue has committed to review its procedures, even though they are confident that this is something that couldn’t have been detected.

Not all brands can pull off a seemingly seamless response to a crisis – but one of the biggest things that JetBlue has going for them is their social media presence.  I’ve often used them as an example of how to do social media right – they  are active, engaging, fun, funny and – it turns out – ready to tackle crises head-on.   And thanks to their approach to social media, their fans and followers are now helping them get the word out on what really happened by sharing with their networks.    When consumers start helping preserve your brand’s reputation, you know you’ve done something right.