Airline Executives, Social Media & E-Mail Reply-All Blunders

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19/11/2009 – Airline Executives, Social Media & E-Mail Reply-All Blunders

Back in the summer of 2007 Ben Baldanza, the CEO of Spirit Airlines, came to gain some notoriety for accidentally sending an internal e-mail regarding a disgruntled passenger to the passenger directly rather than only to the company’s internal corporate communications team.

The e-mail from Spirit Airlines’ CEO that ignited the fire storm reads:
“Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”

The recipient of the e-mail, Christy Boswell, replied to Baldanza asking why she had received the e-mail, however she was never responded to.

This morning at 3:02AM EST (11:02am EAT) I rolled over to read the mail coming into my BlackBerry, only to think I was reading the message wrong…turns out I was not. I was reading my e-mail correctly…

Earlier this summer I had been engaged by a well know African airline that enquired if I could help them create a complete social & emerging media strategy. After a few weeks of correspondence it was agreed that I would create a complete outline proposal for the airline of how they would go forward and engage their target demographic of passengers.

After considerable research the confidential proposal was sent of to this airline. Following the proposal we exchanged further e-mails and numerous direct-messages via Twitter.  My contact at the airline failed to call me at multiple scheduled times for a conference…then he went silent.

I let some time pass, the company had just endured a strike, was reducing some routes and leasing aircraft from partner carriers rather than flying their own to reduce costs, so I assumed the airline just needed some space to get back on track.

It seems the airline was already back on track, as at the end of October I was contacted by someone within the airline who began casually telling me that the airline was using my three page strategy proposal, entitled, “Basic Concept For Integration Of XXXXX Airways’ Emerging Media” as their outline for the new plan of advancing the company’s social media efforts. This person also went on to tell me how much my contact at the airline praised my efforts and information. A few days after these correspondences, the airline released its entry into Mobile Communications, following the sequence of actions I had discussed in my proposal (although not entirely, as their WAP site is not user friendly and has functionality issues).

Once the airline’s outline for deploying emerging media was detailed to me, closely following the concepts I laid out in my proposal, I began contacting the airline.

…so … how does this relate to “Airline Executives, Social Media & E-Mail Reply-All Blunders?”

The airlines’ Group Managing Director & Chief Executive, a graduate of the Harvard School of Business, who is known to be a ‘technocrat,’ fired off an internal e-mail to the company’s Chief Operating Office, at 11:02AM EAT (3:02am EST) with some somewhat rude remarks regarding my enquiry into the company’s use of my hard-researched information.

The problem with the CEO’s forwarded e-mail?  I was the primary recipient of the e-mail, the COO was merely CC’d on.

Where does this leave the company who has been using my information? Well it leaves me with a significant ePaper trail of emails and Twitter direct messages…

…and it leaves the company in the position it was in previously. The company does not know how to control the content or conversation within social and emerging media.  The company is set on avoidance rather than transparency, and this is something that is not effective for corporations engaged in social media.  In order to control the conversation you must control the content through transparency…and this company has once again lost its ability to control the content.

I will not be revealing the name of the offender airline at this time. I replied to the CEO asking him why I was sent the e-mail that was clearly intended to be an internal e-mail only…however I am sure I won’t hear back.

So…for all you executives out there who handle sensitive e-mails, make sure you check the recipients of the e-mail before you hit send…sending it to the wrong people can potentially damage brand image and result in significant public support back lash.

The airline industry has enough problems to deal with, they don’t need to create new problems along the way.

Happy Flying!

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