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.