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Marketing expert weighs in on proper ways to handle PR disasters

Last Updated Apr 17, 2017 at 5:26 pm PST


SFU Marketing Professor says immediate response to PR disaster is vital

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – In the wake of the United Airlines debacle, one marketing expert believes it is possible for companies to successfully recover from┬áPR disasters. But how exactly can that be done?

In 2008, Maple Leaf Foods dealt with a widespread listeria outbreak.There were 57 confirmed cases, which resulted in 22 deaths across the country.

Marketing Professor, Lindsey Meredith with Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business says Maple Leaf handled things properly.

“An immediate response of ‘we’re all over this thing.’ Sincere apologies. Owning up to it. And, by the way, here’s a list of 52 things we are doing to make sure this never happens again.”

Meredith says a company that still has work to do is Volkswagen after its emissions scandal. Since it involved outright dishonesty, Meredith believes it may take longer for the carmaker to redeem itself completely.

“Will they get over it? Sure they will. But the bottom line is that the profitability that is lost for six months or a year, is lost forever.”

Have other companies benefited from the mistakes made by their competitors?

“Well, certainly some of the wise are catching on, but not everybody figures it out. Classic example? AirMiles did not learn a thing from the Aeroplan debacle. They got caught in the same points problem.”

After the situation involving United Airlines, which saw a man dragged off a flight, the airline says it is changing a policy and will no longer allow crew members to displace customers already onboard an airplane.

But Meredith adds, “United, for example, certainly should have been putting a lot more work into working through some of these scenarios, the what-ifs and what do our people do when push comes to shove, literally, and we wind up with the debacle like we saw on that flight.”

Another airline has gained some attention recently after it bumped a 10-year-old boy from a flight last summer. Air Canada has since issued an apology to a family in Prince Edward Island.

Brett Doyle booked four tickets from Charlottetown to Costa Rica for his family last August. A day before the vacation during March break, the family was told the flight was oversold and their son had been bumped.

They drove to Moncton to catch a different flight to meet the one to Costa Rica in Montreal, but when that flight was cancelled they were forced to drive to Halifax and stay overnight in a hotel.

Air Canada says the situation should not have happened.