Losing face

The article “A tale of two airlines and their Facebook fiascos”, which appears in the weekly printed edition of The Economist, states the difficulty of two British airlines from preventing the opinions their employees post in social networks, and thus the effects on the companies’s image.

Taking part of the use of social networks, several cabin crew members from the United Kingdom flag-carrier British Airways and its rival Virgin joked on public forums about safety standards and cleanliness in the airplanes, and not happy with that, attacked their customers describing them with swearwords as “chavs”, “smelly” or “annoying”. This lack of respect towards clients directly affects the companies themselves, as it casts doubt on the airlines training and secret information policy.

Internet, and more recently, social networks, are a great way of making marketing, as it allows the customers to discover by themselves the benefits of a determinate company. Because of this, public-relations get more “Internet-dependent” than ever. But what happens when angry employees post opinions directly attacking a company and its clients? As the article clearly states, both BA and Virgin have a strict policy on professional information and have trained employees about what they can say or not. The problem might be that, by giving the Internet such a new level of liberty, training employees on PR (public-relations) has failed or has proved to be insufficient.

Many firms have used social networks such as Facebook or MySpace, taking advantage of its rise all around the world, and according to PR experts: “anything you now say online is amplified by these services”, which gives an idea of the effect and magnitude of these “jokes” in the PR of both BA and Virgin had. It has been suggested that companies should monitor and control all the information or opinion posted by employees, so as to prevent future acts as these ones, and also to be informed as soon as possible, before the clients and the media get knowledge. “Online watering holes”, which are places where people exchange gossip and views, have been proposed as a solution, but it might be already late to prevent employees from bashing their employers or consumers.

(363 words)

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