What can we learn from Southwest?

For my first blog post, I decided to take a look back at a case that caught my attention in the media years ago, where crisis communication was used through social media in the best way possible. Southwest Airlines generally does pretty well in dealing with crisis and using social media to help reach out to their client base. In 2013 federal investigators found that a Southwest Airlines jet made a hard landing at LaGuardia Airport when it touched down on its front wheel before the sturdier main landing gear in the back touched down. This nose-pointed-down landing violated the airline’s normal procedure and the plane with 150 passengers skidded off the runway and came to rest on its nose after the front landing gear fell apart. Of the 150 passengers only about 16 suffered minor injuries from the odd landing. To read more about the incident you can look at this article.

After this event Southwest took directly to social media to get a hands on approach to this crisis. The company had quick response time through Facebook and Twitter and provided open and honest communication to their customers. This strategy was key in helping the brand control what was being said and maintain a good reputation with their customers.

After quickly sending out messages through social media telling customers that they recognized the situation, that they were handling it and that more information would be released as soon as it was available, customers had a very good response. Most of the comments included notes of support and appreciation for Southwest’s fast and open communication with its customers. Customers reacted incredibly well to the situation that was at hand because Southwest was so open in their communication to their audience.

This specific case is important because it not only shows a good use of crisis communication through social media, it also shows what can happen when the crisis communication is done properly. Southwest was so quick and honest to respond to the problem that none of their customers held the situation against them. They were able to show that they are a trustworthy company even though something not so great happened and by reacting quickly they were able to keep the public on their side. They were also able to almost completely keep the public on their side of the case and make them understand what was happening and why, which is the reason that companies crisis communicate.

As far as from the perspective of a student who is looking to get involved in crisis communication after graduation, this case study really shows me and other students how important social media is becoming in the crisis communications world. If it were not for social media in this case Southwest probably would not have had as many of their customers still on their side because it would have been harder to come off as open and honest. Social media gave them the ability to respond quickly and accurately to the situation which is what put them in a good place in their audiences’ eyes. For me or someone like me who wants to get involved in crisis communication it is important to see how much social media affects that part of public relations. It is also important for us to always be looking at the ways that social media can affect the way a company is viewed in the public eye. Southwest did a great job of making sure that their company was still respected after this incident and it was all possible because of their successful use of social media.


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