Dave Kerpen – How United can still fix this PR disaster?

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Local, the Chairman of Likeable Media, and the NY Times bestselling author of 3 books, including the latest, The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 2 days, by now you’ve seen the video of the man who was unceremoniously dragged off a United Airlines plane Sunday night after the flight had been oversold and didn’t get enough volunteers to take a later flight. In fact, when you include social media and television, I’m estimating over 100 million people have already seen the disturbing video:

-living under a rock (idiom): being oblivious or ignorant to what happens in the outside world
-unceremoniously: một cách khiếm nhã, bất lịch sự
-disturb: hỗn loạn

My social media feeds and yours are now filled with reactions to this incident and to United CEO Oscar Munoz’s lukewarm apology. There are many people calling for protests and saying they will never fly United again.

-incident (n): sự việc, sự cố; (adj): gắn liền với (+to/upon)
-calling for protests: kêu gọi phản đối, biểu tình

The company’s stock fell another 1% today and lost over $300 million from its market value. Undoubtedly, this is a PR disaster for the company. While there are lots of articles explaining the mistakes they made and what people can learn (not offering more money to volunteers, calling the police, not offering a more sincere apology, etc), I’m going to focus on what they can do to resolve this disaster.

United needs to act swiftly and boldly. Here’s what I’d do if I were in CEO Oscar Munoz’s shoes:

-be in s.o shoes: in another’s position or situation
-swifly and boldly: một cách nhanh chóng và dũng cảm

1) Make and share a video personally apologizing to the man dragged off the plane. Use the words, “I’m so sorry,” and “I understand how you feel.” Validate this poor man’s horrific experience.

-validate: xác nhận
-horrific: kinh khủng, khủng khiếp

2) Call up the man on the phone and do the same thing as in point 1). Listen to him. Hear him out and apologize profusely and sincerely. Offer the man something wildly dramatic, such as free United flights anywhere in the world for him and a guest for the rest of his life.

-profusely: with a large amount of something (không tiếc lời)
-hear someone out: to listen to someone until the person isfinished speaking.

3) Make and share a video personally apologizing to everyone else on the plane and everyone who has seen the video. Say “I’m sorry” sincerely and authentically.

-authentically: một cách chân thực

4) Have someone on the customer service team call up every passenger on that plane and personally apologize, again validating their horrible experience. Offer them something dramatic also, like $10,000 worth of free flights to each person.

5) Issue a press release saying that United is deeply sorry and committed to leading industry efforts to combat the problem of overbooking flights. Follow through on these efforts.

-issue press release: phát hành thông cáo báo chí

6) Offer site wide “We’re sorry we screwed up” discounts of 20% off all flights for the next 7 days.

-screw up: completely mismanage or mishandle a situation.

Yes, these are dramatic moves, but they will change the story from the horrific video and poor decisions by United staff and the police officers they called, to how United is bending over backwards to validate their customers’ experiences and make them whole.

-bend over backwards: do a lot to try to help or please someone.

By changing the narrative, United can demonstrate that while they screwed up, they know how to treat customers and the always-demanding public.

-narrative: a story or a description of a series of events
-always-demanding public: công chúng luôn có sự đòi hỏi

Good luck, United! This is going to be a tough one to recover from!


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