Things That Make You Go hmmm…

The airlines are in trouble – we all know that. Well, maybe not Southwest – who have a great blog and seem to keep their passengers if not insanely happy, at least not screaming in the aisles like most other airlines. Now, United Airlines pilots are using social media tools to air their issues and demand the removal of UAL Chairman, President and CEO Glen Tilton.

They got the right url glentilton.com  and on this site, there is media coverage, reports and the opinions of the pilots themselves. They want Glen Tilton out and they are telling the public why.

From what I can see, no one from United Airlines is responding to this website or acknowledging the issues that the pilots are putting forward, at least not publicly. This is one of the challenges of social media, when something like this happens – what do you do?

I have to be clear that I do not know the entire story from both sides. I only know what I have read and seen in the media and what this website tells me. Which, I think is a perspective that United Airlines might be missing. They may have done a great deal to work things out with the pilots, but I don’t know that, as they aren’t telling us anything.

They may be in talks with the pilots right now. For all I know, the board of directors may be asking for Glen Tilton’s resignation as I write this. That’s the problem — no one from inside the organization is letting us know what is going on.

What if they did? What if they publicly announced that they were going to hold town hall meetings and that they were going to tape them and put them up on their intranet for employees who could not be there in person? What if they reached out to some of the pilots and and set up live panel discussions that were webcast so anyone in the company could watch the senior executive and the pilots have open, respectful and authentic discussions on what can be done to bring the two sides together? None of this would be available to anyone but employees, but what if they told the public that they were doing this … I know I would have a better perception of the people running the company.

From my perspective, United Airlines needs to wake up and smell the coffee (which is one of the few items you are not yet charged for on an airplane). The pilots have gone social media on them, they have opened their problems to the whole world. Shutting their C-Suite doors and pretending it isn’t happening, won’t do them any good.

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I have heard little bits about Hatebook.

So, wanting to know more – I hit the site and joined to see what was going on. I am a big fan of social media. I think there is a lot going on and we, as people, as well as professionals need to know about it. The good and the bad. Hatebook isn’t a part of that. It’s a nasty place, full of anger and venom and, well… hate.

This was my welcome email:

Hello Loser,

Welcome to Hatebook!

Your registration to the Evil Empire was successful.

Feel free to pimp your hate profile.

 

After signing in to this site, I want to go and hug my husband, pet my dogs and have a shower. Sometimes things can be taken too far. In my opinion, this is one of them.

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The BBC news carried a piece last week about how Swiss company Nestle had “deeply offended” the people of Azerbaijan with a recent marketing campaign aimed at selling cereal to the Azeri people.

As part of this campaign, Nestle attached a CD-ROM to cereal boxes that contained information about the countries of the world. The piece in the CD about Azerbaijan said the central-Asian country started a war with its neighbor Armenia over a hotly contested strip of land called Nagorno-Karabakh.

That conflict has killed more than 30,000 people since the 1990s and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Being reminded of this black spot in their history — on a cereal box –outraged the Azeris. Swiss-based Nestle has apologized for the goof and recalled the CDs.

The thing is, I have been all over the Nestle website and there is NOTHING on the site acknowledging this issue. Except for the apology, which I have only heard about and not seen…Nestle is ignoring the blogosphere and it’s global audience. If they had put something on their site and let all of us know that that they have apologized, that they are making this right …it would be a good thing. Then, bloggers could point to the text of the apology and that this is being taken seriously. And while their first priority should acknowledging and apologizing to the people of Azerbaijan, they should also be thinking about consumers worldwide who want to know what they have done to make this right.

Another minor embarrassment for the company with this issue … last year at an International Association of Business Communicators conference in New Orleans, Tengku Marina Badlishah, a Nestle rep, sat on a panel titled, “Avoiding Costly Mistakes in Asian Markets.”

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Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Communication has changed. We all know that. How it has changed and how it will continue to change is a hot topic right now. Interestingly enough, Delta Airlines has created a mini site to inform stakeholders about the proposed merger between their company and Northwest.

According to a blog posting by Harvard Business Review’s Scott Berinato, this is the future of press releases. While I appreciate his viewpoint and do think mini or micro-sites such as this are a valuable addition to the communications mix … they are added-value. Especially sites such as this one. It’s still one-dimensional and has been created in the old model of the web – information out to an audience, but no interaction or real dialogue.

We have been working with forward-thinking clients on a communications approach that we’ve been calling “diablogs” – micro-sites that provide basic information like a more traditional website, but that reach out and ask for input, engagement and interaction. If there is something important enough to create a micro-site, it seems to make sense to bring stakeholders into that conversation and to really listen to what they have to say. There is a huge opportunity here. One that Delta may have missed in creating their mini-site.

What if they had included a blog on this site where we could hear from the top executive of the two companies, employees or even other passengers — and we could respond to what they had to say. What if they created an easily updated page where they could address rumours, speculation and misinformation. This site isn’t going to live forever, it’s not a long term commitment for senior execs to speak WITH us … and if this is the press release of the future, I would hope it would be interactive enough to give reporters and the general public interested in this topic more than just the company line. It’s great to tell people where an organization stands, it’s even better to hear what those people think about it. That’s when the magic of real connection begins to happen.

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Starbucks recently launched mystarbucksidea.com.

This is an interesting site. It’s well designed, you can get around it easily and at first glance it looks authentic. The people at Starbucks seem to want to know what our ideas are. It does have some challenges – asking everyone for ideas could be overwhelming – which is what many bloggers are saying right now.

Some have also compared it to Ideastorm, which has done very well in helping Dell rebuild it’s brand and it’s relationship with consumers. Their blog is also a good example of reaching out and really connecting with stakeholders.

It is always interesting to see what organizations are doing online to connect with people. And while I am sure we could all find something wrong with these sites, the fact is – they are out there doing their best to hear what their customers have to say. Perhaps their approach isn’t as managed as it could be (and I think if they had managed it more, they would be criticized for trying to control the process…) and they may learn a great deal from doing this. They are doing it though and that is a huge step forward in how organizations interact with stakeholders. It’s very interesting to see how organizations, both large and small, are using online and social media to create a connection with people.

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