Public Relations Lessons from Oscar at United

Public Relations Lessons from Oscar at United

This week proved to be a teachable moment in public relations from Oscar Munoz, the CEO from United. Even though United works with Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm on retainer, Oscar still acted like a grouch and just kept digging himself into a hole.

Simply put, here are the key lessons for marketers faced with a PR nightmare.  Whether you are running a major airline or the communications manager for a small business, the same rules apply.

Oscar’s Oops and PR Lessons to Be Learned

  • Start by showing real empathy when faced with a public relations nightmare.
  • Act like a human being, not a corporate dolt.
  • Take the blame immediately with easy to understand phrases like, “we blew it,” “we screwed up,” or “we stepped in it.”
  • Don’t say BUT. For example, don’t say, I’m so sorry BUT. Or, I feel bad, BUT. No BUTS. Period. Hard stop. Just apologize without qualifying it and explaining that you were following your procedures. No BUTS.
  • Don’t ask for forgiveness yet. You haven’t earned it until we know what the company will do differently.
  • Recognize that your process failed and you must fix it.
  • Customers accept when you make a mistake. They don’t forgive you when you pretend and hide behind corporate speak like you are sorry you had to re-accommodate the doctor.
  • Don’t blame anyone. Admit you and your company failed and you promise to change your policy.

No One is Perfect and You Proved It

Companies do stupid things and mess up all the time. Their processes don’t get followed, and people behave in crazy, incoherent ways. But the consumer is smart enough to smell a weasel trying to hide behind corporate bullshit.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said it best – stop following your damn processes. Look at the outcome you want and don’t be a slave to your procedures.

As the saying goes, when stuck in a ditch, stop digging deeper.

PR is about acting like a human being. Need some council and advice on a delicate situation? Let’s talk. 919 720 0995 or

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