United’s Latest Online PR Disaster — With The Exact Wrong Guy (Again)

by Celeste Bishop

in Online Reputation Management

Readers of this blog may recall a couple of months ago we published an article — Think Online Reputation Doesn’t Matter — Ask United. This was a story about how social media can immediately challenge your reputation and cause endless amounts of work to contain the damage.

Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician, took a major unresolved grievance with United to heart. The grievance? United damaged his Taylor guitar. Dave wrote a song about his unsatisfactory experience, loaded it up on YouTube and went from relative obscurity to fame as Everyman with a Voice.

His YouTube video (which he did with his band — Sons of Maxwell) has been viewed almost 6 million times — and that was just the first video! People who never would have heard this story listened to Dave and the band sing their story. They listened and shared online… and along the way millions of negative impressions about United Airlines were created.

In case you missed that great video — here’s the link to United Breaks Guitars.

Not only did the story/song go viral, traditional media outlets tripped over each other to interview him and give the story “legs” offline as well. This story had so many legs it put a centipede to shame!

His saga struck a chord with all of us who have ever been on the short end of the stick trying to get satisfaction with the Airline Lost Baggage folks. It doesn’t hurt that the song and video are snappy, either.

Credit: Vancouver Sun

Credit: Vancouver Sun

In an incredible stroke of bad luck, just a few days ago United again messed with the wrong guy and lost his luggage somewhere along the way on a trip he took from Calgary Canada to Denver. When he arrived at Denver — no luggage. United employees told him he had to wait around; US Customs told him he had to leave. He left. And, three days later his luggage showed up.

Here’s the fun part: He was on his way to a speak to a conference of customer service execs about – United Broke My Guitar! It really just doesn’t get any better.

Once again United is in the middle of another PR disaster as one media channel after another — online and offline — retell the story of Dave at United’s expense. And they all seem to relish pointing out that Dave was on his way to speak to customer service execs.

The moral of this story? Manage the Beforemath, not the Aftermath… online reputation management is a reality for businesses today.

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