Last year, Southwest Airlines refused passage to two young women for obnoxious behavior. The ladies immediately went out and told the press they weren't permitted aboard because they were "too pretty to fly"—sparking a media-driven feeding frenzy on Southwest's precious brand equity.
It didn't matter that it wasn't true. It mattered that what these girls had to say was so petty, and yet so incendiary, that people got a kick out of retelling the story. But The Little Airline That Could did something unexpected: it used YouTube to set the record straight.
And how. According to Southwest social media guru Paula Berg, the company picked one of its prettiest PR mavens and seated her at the foreground of a sign that playfully read, "A beautiful way to fly." Thus wittily armed, the young woman explained what really happened to an audience willing to gawk—and to listen.
The situation almost immediately fell in Southwest's favor. And it didn't take much damage control—just the willingness to be truthful and use new media wisely. Very smart.
You may recall a similar, and more recent, debacle with Domino's: suffering serious social damage after two employees YouTubed their less-than-hygienic food hijinks in a Domino's kitchen, the pizza chain used YouTube in kind. President Patrick Doyle sat down before the world and explained what the company planned to do about the camera-happy employees—and about its own honor. Very smart.
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