Tuesday, February 20, 2007

When PR Meets Social Media

The blogosphere is buzzing about JetBlue CEO David Neeleman using YouTube to reach out to his customers to address the difficulties the airline had last week. The overall reaction has been favorable to how Neeleman handed the situation, and I agree, JetBlue did handle the situation better than most companies have in similar situations.

I do think it's very interesting that Neeleman used YouTube to reach his customers. This is a classic case of reaching your customers using their tools in their space. But one thing that the commenters at YouTube pointed out,(along with Jackie), was that Neeleman never uttered those 2 magical words; 'I'm sorry'. Which IMO kept a good move from being a brilliant one. There were also plenty of comments about how nervous Neeleman looked, and he clearly was. But that, if anything, makes him look authentic. It made him look like any of his customers would have probably looked if they were having to make a video to be put on one of the most popular sites on the internet.

But since he couldn't couple that authenticity with the humility of an apology, a chance to make a brilliant impression is lost. Don't get me wrong, the video is a very good move and most companies would have never thought to reach out to their customers in their space, with their tools. Still, it was so close to being almost perfect.

UPDATE: Tom Biro posts the email that JetBlue sent him, which begins with "We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry." As for why that wasn't the first thing out of his mouth on the YouTube video, after introducing himself, I have no idea.

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Anonymous said...


We are all thinking a like tonight. I just posted on this topic as well. While the CEO didn't say "I'm sorry" in the video portion of the Bill of Rights rollout, he did issue a very humbling apology, which is also on the JetBlue website. (I included a link in my story as well.)

I agree, it would have been nice to knit it all together...but he did apologize.


Mack Collier said...

But he didn't apologize in the video, and that was my point. It's great that he did on the website, but he should have done so in the video as well. And let me be clear again, leaving the video on YouTube was a GREAT move. It's just that I saw how he came across as being human, but didn't add the simple 'I'm sorry' that would have made the video a home run.

Anonymous said...

I wrote about apologies a while back:


Like I said in my post, apologizing doesn't make you less of a man :)

And yeah, I too missed those two simple words in an otherwise great effort.

Anonymous said...

So interesting. This could be a trend. Imagine how little it cost to record this 'commercial' and post it through social media, do a little blogging and a few press releases to create a buzz versus buying broadcast slots between sitcoms. I have to imagine they did this for hundreds of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands. And the reach and buzz may be greater.

Anonymous said...


Yes, agreed, it would have been ideal had he knit the whole message into each delivery tool.

That would have made it a home run, without a doubt. Of course, even getting up to bat is more than his competitors ever seem to do.


Anonymous said...

I saw Neeleman on Letterman the other night, and I do think he apologized. Certainly he said they screwed up.

Jet Blue is obviously using social media to reach out and make amends. When I went to pull up a post about Jet Blue on MPDailyFix yesterday, I noticed a paid link to view Jet Blue's Bill of Rights.

They're trying -- that's for sure. If they didn't say the words we're sorry in the YouTube piece, they're certainly saying it now.

I give them high marks so far for their handling of this p.r. crisis.

Anonymous said...

I got sent an e-mail by Jet Blue apologising. I live in the UK and flew on them once 3 years ago. Why do I need to be apologized to if I have not flown on their airline. Can't they tell the difference.

An irrelevant e-mail is not far short of a spam.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I agree with your point. The first thing out if his mouth should have been a sincere apology for the inconvenience his customers had to endure. Hearing an apology would help his customers feel as if he's taking personal responsibility for the offense.

I'd be willing to bet that he followed the guidance of his PR team that advised him against apologizing. They might have thought that he'd come off looking like a sap.

It could have been brilliant, instead it was only acceptable.