Search Mishap Spills $1b in Value from United

It’s been said many times that Google is the defacto reputation management system for your brand. And it’s surprising when a reporter doesn’t know how to use the search engine correctly. The domino effect one reporter had on the stock of United Airlines yesterday is a case in point. The airline’s shares fell from $12 to $3 in less than an hour (that’s $1b in value) due to an old article in the Chicago Tribune about bankruptcy filings that a reporter at Income Securities Advisors included in a summary and then linked to that old article on Bloomberg News, which (domino effect in play here) then sent out a news alert. Had the reporter seen the date on the article, it’s safe to say the article would not have been referenced. But so many of us unquestionably trust Google – and so many reporters don’t follow up these days on what others are reporting – that we take it on faith that if it’s at the top of the Google search, it’s fresh, it’s news and it’s accurate. And, given the plight of United and the airline industry in general, the “news” did not come as a shock to the reporter.

What happened to fact-checking? What happened to paying attention? What happened to the editing process? What happened to reporters calling PR contacts to check in?

As PR professionals and guardians of our organization’s reputation, this story is a reminder of how old news, bad news, and negative comments spread fast and wickedly. What’s on the Web never goes away – tucked into archives and sometimes-visited Web pages and apt to rear its ugly head when just the right search keywords are struck.

The good news to this story is that everyone responded quickly and the mistake was acknowledged. PR needs to be out there constantly monitoring and responding, developing strong relationships with bloggers and mainstream reporters. It could be the difference between a rise in profit and a loss of $1 billion.

– Diane Schwartz

  • don pazour

    Good case study on what not to do. Better BLOG entry than your whining about how PR people manage calls to editor/journalists. Just kiddin’ have a good day.

  • dschwartz

    Thanks for reading our blog! Me whining?

  • Wendi Sanders