JetBlue Responds to Entire Internet With Single Blog Post

JetBlue blog post about Slater

The Steven Slater saga continues to twist and deepen, with several outlets suggesting that the working-class-hero-has-an-understandable-meltdown story may have a few holes in it. Meanwhile, Slater's employer is in an increasingly tricky position. If one of their employees became a folk hero for quitting, then didn’t that make them something of, well, a folk villain?

For the first 48 hours following Slater’s famous beer slide, JetBlue said nothing. Then, on Wednesday, JetBlue made the scantest of acknowledgments. On its “BlueTales” blog, it noted that

It wouldn’t be fair for us to point out absurdities in other corners of the industry without acknowledging when it’s about us. Well, this week’s news certainly falls into that category. Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants? While we can’t discuss the details of what is an ongoing investigation, plenty of others have already formed opinions on the matter. Like, the entire Internet. (The reason we’re not commenting is that we respect the privacy of the individual. People can speak on their own behalf; we won’t do it for them.)

While this episode may feed your inner Office Space, we just want to take this space to recognize our 2,300 fantastic, awesome and professional Inflight Crewmembers for delivering the JetBlue Experience you’ve come to expect of us.

It’s a wily little post, expertly done—mixing cheeky self-deprecation, ostensible privacy concerns, an apt and funny YouTube link (to the Office Space movie), and only the tiniest dose of PR pablum. What’s fascinating, however, is that these 140 or so words constitute almost the entire response to a story that has had every media outlet scrambling all week.

Better yet: it did the trick. Comments in the media were "sharply negative" towards JetBlue on Tuesday, a digital marketing agency called Zeta Interactive told the New York Times, but by Wednesday, the day of the blog post, comments were more positive. Since it seemed that JetBlue had made an adroit use of its social media base to ride out the Slater media storm, Fast Company asked for comment from JetBlue’s communications department. They placed us on standby. "I wouldn’t be able to set a timeline now" for an interview, says JetBlue's Mateo Lleras.

And that, in the end, may be the best lesson JetBlue give us--sometimes the best response to a PR disaster is a single blog post and a tight-lipped smile.

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7 Comments

  • Jeff Schmidt

    My biggest concern out of this for organizations is the escalating copycats who want their 15 minutes of fame. Now that the dramatic resignation is a proven vehicle to the blogosphere - let the line start forming now.

  • Carolyn Russell

    Great story, and thank you. Agree that the blog post from JetBlue was savvy copywriting, I respectfully disagree re "...sometimes the best response to a PR disaster is a single blog post and a tight-lipped smile."
    You can't just close the door and stop communicating when facing unpopular media coverage (well, you can if you want to) and expect 1) positive coverage when there is good news to share or 2) wait for the issue t o go away. I spent 11 years in corporate PR at a Fortune 10 company. We had plenty of interest from local media for programs, technology, etc. But when the news wasn't positive, we didn't stop communicating, though a response may have been minimal until we got more facts, etc.

    I advise clients to have a crisis communication program in place before a crisis/issue happens -- which surely JetBlue has done -- and that if you don't communicate or engage in the discussion, someone else will do it for you.

  • Scott Byorum

    Why would they say much of anything? This whole Slater thing is free advertising for them. You don't think of JetBlue as the villian. You think of the passenger that ticked him off as the villian.

  • Diane D. Stein

    Handling an employee "meltdown" is never easy. Having to handle it under the ever-open eye of the Internet and social media is flat out difficult. JetBlue's approach to the situation appears to have been planned instead of reactionary and for that they should be applauded - they had a plan and they stuck to it. Every business should have a plan in place to address potential issues so that instead of reacting they can respond.

  • Mike Mitchell

    Great way to slap without being seen slapping. "We're not going to talk about the guy who's facing CRIMINAL CHARGES for his actions, but want to praise the other 2,300 emplooyees that follow the rules."

  • Nancy Shenker

    One of the best and classiest examples of crisis management by a corporation I've ever seen -- and I spent 30 years in the corporate world. Brillaint move, JetBlue!
    Nancy A. Shenker, CEO, www.theonswitch.com