JetBlue committed the cardinal sin among airlines during this past weekend’s freak snowstorms—they kept people on a plane for hours. In 1991 they might not have even apologized. In 2001 they might have offered free tickets/perks to the inconvenienced passengers. In 2011, they followed the lead of several other companies by offering an apology on YouTube.
For starters, it’s available to the masses. It’s available not only to those who were directly affected by the PR disaster, but also to those potential future customers. (And shareholders, and don’t think for a second that’s not a primary concern) It also allows the company several advantages to the old ways of coping with a PR crisis:
Video beats a written statement every time. You can sense sincerity from video that you can’t with a written statement. Plus (in the past) so many written corporate statements come across as legalese? People will immediately judge the sincerity of the person and the message being delivered—and if you haven’t come across as arrogant and actually did say, “I’m sorry”, chances are you’ll be forgiven.
Coming from your CEO, it carries more weight. It isn’t “big mega-corporation” that is making the apology, it’s a real person. Even if your CEO rarely acts like a real person, he/she can probably pull it off for 90 seconds. It gives your company a face—a person to empathize with. People like people way more than logos. And you can use this line for free: “We know you expect better from us, and we know we’re better than this.”
The apology itself brings you positive PR. Chances are—if you’re big enough and the story made the news—the YouTube apology will also make the news. That added exposure will add thousands of views to your video—and isn’t that why you made it in the first place? It’s the first step in repairing the damaged relationship.
It’s in your own words, not the media’s. No chance you’re “taken out of context” here. It’s on YouTube! You get the chance to tell your side of the story without interruption and without the viewpoint of the disgruntled carrying more weight than your own version of the facts.
It shows that you acknowledge the problem, and are making a serious effort at making amends. It’s no small decision to put your CEO on camera and deliver a sincere, heartfelt apology.
There is absolutely a “right way” and a “wrong way” to deliver any corporate apology. Want (hopefully don’t yet “need”?) some examples? Here’s some good advice:
The Wall Street Journal Online’s “10 CEO YouTube Apologies”
JetBlue’s CEO’s Recent Apology via CNN Travel
(and if these links are missing, “I’m sorry”)