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American Airlines parody: A pr pros nightmare

February 14, 2012

Most companies take themselves too seriously, and that is likely an extension of the fact that most of us take ourselves too seriously.  This news story from MSNBC: American Airlines Video however is either funny or disturbing, depending on your PR perspective.

For a long time, I have taken the position that most companies should let employees run wild with social media and hope for the best.  Stories like this are very, very rare.  However, this is the type of story that is likely to further derail what was a tough customer service relationship and a tough relationship between executives and flight attendants.  In the end, fairly or not, I watch the video and think I’m witnessing a look inside American Airlines.   This one employee may just be disgruntled and this may not be a fair characterization, but that is not what the average person is going to see.

The one thing I really like about the American Airlines response from a PR professionals perspective is that they correctly point out that the employee making the video is making fun of  or harming another employee with the parody.  I don’t know enough about the situation, but the more like an actual employee the character in the video is I think the better case they have.  For all of us, I think it’s a reminder that the golden rule applies in social media.  I’m pretty sure this employee wouldn’t think it was funny if the executives did a parody video of flight attendants.

I’m not totally taking American’s side here.  It sounds like they have deep problems, and if this guy is willing to lose his job over it then maybe this is the last form of revolt he feels he has left.  Either way, it’s ugly – or funny depending one what side of the desk you are sitting on.

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