Jet Blue Takes to You Tube

Going directly to the people, David Neeleman, CEO
of Jet Blue makes promises to prevent the terrible problems Jet Blue customers
have faced in the past week.

Before last week Jet Blue was a favorite airline of many people I know. The problems of the past week, however, gave them pause.

But I think CEO David Neeleman has been unusually open and public in his response. How many times do we hear a CEO say, “We goofed. We made a mistake. Our personnel were not deep enough?”

I think he earns points for that alone. But he also knows words won’t be enough. Performance will be the measure of how well Jet Blue pulls out of this tailspin. And by going on You Tube to explain simply and concisely what the airline will do differently, he continues to rebuild Jet Blue’s damaged reputation.

I’ve never heard him say, “I take full responsibility;” a tactic that has been made empty and frivolous because it doesn’t point to change and is devoid of consequence. The cynic asks, “So what?” The absence of this phrase in his public comments was another positive.

Going directly to the customer through a posting on You Tube is not only creative, it’s credible. This is not the highly produced television spot of William Clay Ford, Jr., nor Lee Iaccoca before him. However sincere those public remarks were, they came with the cachet of broadcast television, a cachet that does not invoke the directness and simplicity that Neeleman achieves on You Tube. The You Tube comments cut through the filters, seem more direct and personify simplicity. This is an effective use of the Web.

Moreover, if you contrast Neeleman’s public remarks to more than a few politicians and CEOs who can’t admit to mistakes, he looks good by comparison. It’s anyone’s guess how those feel who sat on the tarmac for eleven hours. But, the customer’s bill of rights coupled with Neeleman’s comments show that honesty has its own appeal. We’ll have to wait and see, but my guess is that Jet Blue’s CEO has conducted himself in a manner that reassures potential customers and encourages loyal Jet Blue passengers. If it works this will be a communications case study in effective crisis management.

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