This is why you have to own it United
Over the weekend twitter user @theregoesbabs captured this photo that shows a dog in a kennel on the tarmac and as the story goes, the dog was in the rain for 30 minutes. In the time of social media this photo went viral yesterday and was retweeted over 2000 thousand times which sent the Internet mob to the doorstep of the United Airlines twitter account. Prior to writing this post I spent some time there and cannot imagine a more thankless job of responding to terrible tweets all day - then again when you respond like United did, that creates its own feedback loop.
What did you United do? First, they blamed another company.
Passing the buck is a corporate culture lighting rod, when people take to social to talk to brands they want to be treated like and by a human. No human would walk by a dog in a cage in the rain and say, "no worries, Pet Safe's got it." Neither should United Airlines. The next step?
You blame the user.
As a United spokesperson goes on to elaborate that the photo is from the wrong angle to show how under the wing the dog was during that time. I have looked at the blown up version of the photo above and the original from the tweet here:
It sure looks like the cage is out in the rain and not under the wing. But let's look at this from a different angle, flying as a mode of transportation is usually terrible under good conditions. The airlines have made it so there is very little to enjoy about the process. So, after you went through the ticket counter, got charged extra for your bag, went through security, went through additional security, bought a $13 coffee before boarding the plane, and got seated in a chair not much larger than a child's car seat and you look out the window to see your bag sitting there like this, what would be your reaction after thirty minutes?
Every single one of us would be outraged that we paid to have our stuff on the plane and you left our bag or in this case our best friend on the tarmac 3 feet away from the covered baggage carrier. Certainly we are all human and mistakes do happen but with this particular brand, this is not virgin territory.
Which is why it becomes so important to own the mistake. Say you are sorry and that you would never want your dog to be treated that way. Say that you spoke with Pet Safe to come up with a better protocol in order to make sure that this doesn't happen, then send the dog's owner a basket of fun dog treats to show you are actually sorry. Social media makes things faster, makes anger louder, makes people empowered to say things they would never say in public. But social also makes real connections, powerful connections, when you care to act human as a brand.
And it has been a banner week for United.
As we inch closer to 2015, as a brand "do the next right thing," every day.