David Neeleman is notoriously ‘anti PR-agency’, as seen in the comment below to PR Week. I’ve held off on jumping into this discussion becuase I wanted to see it play out for a little bit. During the initial painful crisis the blogosphere and and many PR insiders were quick to jump on them. That being said, after the initial pain, they’ve pretty much done everything that I think a PR agency would have recommended to them:
– CEO mea culpa (on MSM and new media such as YouTube)
– Proactive stance with ‘customer bill of rights’
Jenny Dervin, director of communications for Jet Blue, said the company’s in-house corporate communications team of seven full-time employees drew on additional help from marketing and other departments to handle approximately 5,000 in-bound media requests at the height of the crisis. But she was resolute that the company, which has no agency, would not look for external help.
“Jet Blue corporate communications does not have a PR agency of record nor do we ever intend on getting one,” she said. “Those agencies that felt the need to contact our CEO and the corp comms department directly, telling us exactly what we were doing wrong, were not helpful and they are all going to go on a special list that I’m going to share with my colleagues in the PR industry encouraging them never to do business with those companies.”
A few agency pundits have been quoted as well giving praise to JetBlue for their response:
“In terms of media relations, Neeleman is doing a great job,” said James Donnelly, SVP, crisis management at Ketchum. “He’s doing a lot of things that you would typically expect from good crisis response. He’s been visible, humbly apologetic, and the introduction of the customer bill of rights is a textbook example of the overreaction you expect, [but] public relations goes beyond media management. In this situation it’s really going to be about the customer experience.”
“The fact that Jet Blue came forward immediately and acknowledged the problems and is committed to fixing them…is the first step toward retaining customers,” added Matt Gonring of Gagen MacDonald, which has worked with United Airlines on internal communications efforts. “The key is getting the workforce and technology aligned to deliver on it.”
There’s some momentum today in the PR blogosphere to praise JetBlue. I’m with this group. As I’ve seen many times, you don’t necessarily need an agency to navigate through a crisis.
Anyone have any major ideas they would have recommended? Other than the obvious, ‘it shouldn’t have happened in the first place?’