Crisis Management – 3 Rules to Save your Business Reputation

By Mark Macias

In today’s world, it doesn’t take much for a disgruntled customer to spark a crisis, ruining a business reputation. Just ask the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz. He is under fire this week for the way he responded to a video that showed a passenger getting dragged off a United flight.

PR Week might have named Munoz the “Communicator of the Year” last month, but none of that matters today. It only took one viral video for everyone to forget the good he did in the past.

I wrote an editorial today for CNBC, explaining three lessons every executive can learn from Munoz.  (You can read that editorial here). If you’re short on time, here are the takeaways from that editorial.

Crisis Management for Executives and CEOs

  1. Apply empathy. Munoz put his airline first, saying “this is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” A passenger was bloodied and literally dragged off a plane because the airline booked too many passengers on the flight. Why is that upsetting to United? It’s disturbing that the CEO didn’t even grasp the basics of human kindness.
  2. Bribe disgruntled customers. Whenever you have a customer with a legitimate concern, don’t risk them going to the media. Do the right thing and try to accommodate them in any way possible.
  3. Never blame the victim. The CEO of United originally blamed the passenger, calling him belligerent. Maybe the passenger was, but wouldn’t you be upset if you waited hours on a tarmac and a stranger came up to you and demanded you not receive the service you already paid for?

Equally important, don’t forget that video today only adds more momentum to your negative story. If the disgruntled customer has video supporting his or her claim, your problem just got bigger. At this point, it might be smart to reach out to a professional crisis manager.

Macias PR was named the 2015 and 2016 top PR Firm of the Year – USA by Finance Monthly. The founder – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.