For American Airlines’ Social Media Analyst, Crisis Management & Social Strategy Should Be a Work in Progress

American Airlines' senior social media analyst, knows all too well about crisis management: In early April 2013, a computer system failure grounded more than 700 of the airline's flights. The meltdown was yet another useful learning experience for O'Brien, who uses social data to provide key insights on brand sentiment, customer experience, campaign success and crisis communications. Grounded passengers' frustrations reverberated across the Internet, highlighting how important it is to integrate social analytics into strategic decision making—a process O'Brien is currently focused on at American Airlines.

In the following Q&A, O'Brien, who will be speaking at PR News' May 15 PR Measurement Conference in Washington, D.C., discusses the intersection of crisis communications, social media and analytics.

PR News: When American Airlines' reservation system suffered its outage last month, what recent crisis communications lessons learned were you able to apply to your social media strategy?

Amy O'Brien: From past experiences, we knew that it was critical to provide our customers with prompt and transparent communications during the system outage on April 16. Social media users appreciate having as much information as possible, and travelers responded well to our updates that contained specific details about how they could be impacted and when the problem would be resolved.

PR News: You're involved in making social analytics part of strategic decision making at American. What is the most influential social metric, in terms of this decision making?

O'Brien: Brand sentiment is a very important social metric that a business can use to impact decision making across a wide variety of functions. Awareness of what drives changes in brand sentiment, either positive or negative, can be critical for decisions related to areas such as customer service, marketing and communications. 

PR News: What is one social media measurement tip you'll share with attendees at the May 15 PR Measurement Conference?

O'Brien: I will discuss how to understand who your audience is, and how to tailor your social analytics and reporting to their needs. This will help you to provide timely and actionable insights that will bring value to the business during a crisis situation or during normal operations.  

Learn more from measurement experts like Amy O'Brien at PR News' PR Measurement Conference on May 15 in Washington, D.C.

Follow Lucia: @LKCDavis

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About Lucia Davis

Lucia Davis is community editor for PR News. Prior to returning to NYC, she was associate editor at iMedia Connection in Culver City, CA. In addition to PR News and iMedia, Lucia's writing has appeared in minonline, "The Minetta Review," "EQUITIES Magazine," and "The Foothills Paper."

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  • John Nielsen

    When the first leg of my American Airlines flight was delayed due to a problem with the plane – I thanked them for the free drink and was on my way. When the second leg of my flight was cancelled due to a problem with the plane – I thought wow, this is pretty bad. When my third American Airlines flight was delayed for 2 hours and I missed my connecting flight due to a “check engine light” aka broken plane – I hopped onto Twitter and ripped them a new one. Their social media rep could offer no solution or assistance except “contact our customer service rep to rebook”…..I then contacted JetBlue who helped me rebook.