If you happen to watch last nights TV news you’ll have almost certainly seen a story about JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater’s freak out on Flight 1052. At the end of what must have been a particularly stressful flight back to his home town of New York City, Steve embarked upon an altercation with a passenger over the inappropriate retrieval of a carry-on bag from the overhead luggage rack. This eventually resulted, after some colourful language over the public address system, in Steve “deploying the inflatable evacuation chute, grabbing a beer from the beverage cart, yelling “It’s been great!” and sliding down and away to his car.” Steve was later arrested at his home in Queens, where TV pictures last night show him smiling as police led him away.
We’ve all had a bad day at work, I’m sure; some of us may have even fantasised about telling the boss to shove his job where the jets don’t fly. But hardly anyone has the guts to turn themselves into a worldwide news sensation overnight by actually going through with it!
What makes this story so intriguing for digital marketers?
Profile and reach
Firstly the speed with which the story spread. You’ve got to ask yourself how much profile this story would have had, pre-social media? Without the spread of the story on Twitter and user generated videos and blogs this story could easily have been limited to New York State, perhaps the US national networks a day later, and maybe a footnote in the Guardians Weekend magazine. What it got instead was same-day national TV news on a global scale! Described by Channel 4 news last night as a “Twitter trending topic”, there’s no doubt the reach of the JetBlue Steve Slater story was hugely amplified by social media channels, both the speed with which the story spread and the number of journalists around the world who picked it up. As well as the press networks, Slater is also the subject of at least 10 separate pages on Facebook, including ones called “Free Steven Slater” and the “Steven Slater Legal Defence Fund”.
This brings us to the second point. The story’s been given a whole new dynamic by adding a few million additional voices into the mix through the public dialogue on the social media channels. Mr Slater today finds himself facing up to 7 years in prison for his ‘dangerous’ behaviour. But how do you feel about his behaviour? A few mixed emotions? None of us want to fly on a plane where the flight attendants are prone to unpredictable emotional outbursts, but at the same time I quite enjoy the feeling of liberation this story gives, and the sense that nobody was ever in any real danger, right? Whatever your point of view, there’s no doubt that the opinions coming through the social networks do permeate mainstream news and ultimately stand a very real chance of influencing Steve Slater’s fate in court.
What about the effect on the JetBlue brand, and why are social media driven crises so visible so quickly and for so long? Simple answer: Google loves social media. Social sites fit the bill for Google as far as relevance measures are concerned – lots of keyword rich content, updated all day every day and linking to lots of other sites with the same topics and themes – i.e. a social network! So when a PR crisis for a brand kicks off like this, all that lovely social content is going to quickly find its way onto page one of your brands Google results, and more importantly hang around on page one until someone writes something to replace it. Whether its Nestle’s use of palm oil in Kit Kats, a BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or a manic flight attendant, the reach of PR crisis online is far greater, quicker to spread and will last longer than ever before thanks to Google. This is why you need a Reputation Management service! To help you plan for potential crisis, develop content responses and most important of all, strategies to get your content out there and help influence that all important search page – after all, if it ain’t visible through search, it ain’t getting read!
Good luck Steve Slater, we look forward to reading your blog on the subject, once you’re out of jail of course.
Andy Wood is a Director at Freestyle Interactive. He’s worked in the digital industry since 1997, in-house and agency side. His core responsibility is the development of digital strategy for clients and the continued development of the agency offering.
- JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater tries to turn 15 minutes into 20 (gadling.com)
- Infamous Jet Blue Flight Attendant Steven Slater releases rap video (communities.canada.com)
- Steven Slater reality show? JetBlue flight attendant (gadling.com)