The Week in PR

Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman, Starbucks

What’s in a Name? Is it fair to call the fatal accident that occurred aboard Southwest Airlines flight 1380 last week a PR crisis? Was what happened at a Philadelphia Starbucks April 12 a PR crisis? Regardless, in both cases PR was at the fore. Southwest’s fine communications/social team reacted quickly to the April 17 incident that killed Jennifer Riordan, 43, sending information in short and longer formats, but adding an empathetic note to its words. A video with CEO Gary Kelly expressing his regrets was posted within hours. Later in the week Kelly sent letters to passengers on the flight that included a $5,000 check and a $1,000 travel voucher. While Southwest’s communications work was top notch, it seemed less personal compared to the efforts of Starbucks’ executive chairman Howard Schultz and CEO Kevin Johnson, who set the bar high for senior executives. Both seemed to drop what they were doing and hightailed it to Philly. Johnson’s TV interviews impressed, too. He owned the situation instead of pushing it off on a low-level employee’s mistake. To be fair, the two headed to the City of Brotherly Love after the situation escalated.

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