If the BP oil spill has taught us anything, it’s that some corporations need to clear house with their internal PR and get their act(s) together. Okay, in BP’s case it taught us much more than that, but you get the point. A story this morning about a delayed Virgin Atlantic flight is further proof that, too often, corporate communication to the public misses the mark.
The flight was delayed on a tarmac for hours in Connecticut. The power kept going out leaving passengers in the dark, there was no food or water or cool air. There were screaming babies and screaming mad adults. Four passengers fainted and had to be taken off the plain by ambulance. What did Virgin have to say about this?
“Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologize for any inconvenience caused,” a Virgin spokeswoman said.
Okay, I’m sorry, but are you F@#$(@& nuts? Your passengers, I’m sorry, YOUR CLIENTS, were hungry, hot, thirsty and sitting in the dark, and a few of them needed to be removed and put in an ambulance, and you want to apologize for any inconvenience that might have caused? That is one of the most tepid, lazy, indifferent, I-don’t-care-about-my-job-or-my-clients responses from a spokesperson I’ve heard since, well, BP last said something. Now, I don’t mean to equate people sitting on a tarmac for four hours with what has happened in the Gulf, but the lack of careful messaging behind both PR machines is just plain lazy and negligent.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of working hard to make sure that the messaging for my clients is perfect, or as perfect as can be, only to read comments like this from large corporations and realize that maybe I’m working too hard. Maybe I could have a job for a large corporation and make a ton of money and get by with really shoddy work, too. Then instead of blogging to you about marketing, I could blog to you about, well wait, I wouldn’t blog because obviously, I would be too lazy to blog.
I think Virgin Atlantic should have said something along the lines of, “We are appalled by what happened. We should have had adequate water and food for our passengers, if nothing else, and we should have done a better job of keeping them informed, even if it was to simply say that we don’t know what is going on, because obviously, we are clueless.” Okay, maybe they shouldn’t have said that last part, but I felt a tiny bit of humor needed to be injected into this story. I also think they should have added what they would do to entice these customers to come back in the future, because right now, as unappealing as the idea of flying United is, I’m thinking I’ll do that over Virgin Atlantic next time I need to fly.
In the future, when airlines are giving press statements, it would be nice if they replaced the word “passenger” with “client.” Same with doctors and their staff when referring to “Patients.” Government could do the same with “citizens.” We aren’t citizens,” we’re “clients.” Even “taxpayer” is too diluted. If someone helps pay your bills, they are either Daddy or they are your client. When clients are treated badly, they deserve an explanation.
Thanks Virgin, for proving that even Virgins can screw people, too.