Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The PR Issue Behind Alaska Airlines Decompression

Found via Scobleizer, then seen on MP, and then noted on BuzzMachine the PR issue ... here's an interesting story on Alaska Airlines ... and how the plane decompression was blogged about with nice photos by Jeremy Hermanns (good first name, well, middle name for him - but I am biased on that one).

While others want to jump on the "citizen journalism" train - woohoo - the other story here for PR professionals (and bloggers) is that Alaska Airlines employees have possibly (update, bc of Dave Taylor's point) gone nasty-comment-happy on Jeremy's blog.

Now, I am going to assume (yes, I know the cutesy saying) that the employees commenting are not the official spokespeople for the airlines. I cannot imagine a PR person making such asinine comments on a blog, or not being able to spell, or just posting stupid comments that they researched his pilot's license - that's not PR nor would it behoove any PR person to operate like that. It says sneaky and sleazy and unprofessional.

But, it does really project that every organization needs to have a blogging policy for all employees. Even if the employees are not operating as official (or unofficial) spokespeople for the company, their IP addresses scream "I work for so-and-so!!" A blogging policy - and a blogging comment policy - would take care of such issues. And, if an employee still feels the need to post comments, then the corporation should feel the need to show the employee the door.

It reminds me of other comments and posts out there from employees of companies. They might be great evangelists, but are they official spokespersons? Who is an official spokesperson for a company nowadays? Is it anyone out there that blogs, or should it still be the public relations team, who hopefully can move quickly and nimbly. Or, at the least, should there not be a consistent message for blog comments and blog posts coming from a company? No, I am not condoning or suggesting canned blog posts, but there are certain messaging points you want to convey as a company.

In the blogosphere, everyone from the company feels like they are part of the company, and part of the greater good. This is true for old companies, and new, but it is not the way it really should be. Employees are an extension of the company, and what an employee does is a direct reflection of the corporation. In this instance - besides the bad press for the airplane decompressing, Alaska has to deal with the view that they are a crass, uncaring, lackadaisical airline. Which could have been easily avoided with an internal blog comment policy.
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