Logo

How the Steven Slater Story–He’s the Flight Attendant Who Took the Evacuation Slide to Quit His Job This Week–Is Stifling JetBlue’s Social Media Strategy

Aug 11, 2010  •  Post A Comment

By Rupal Parekh and Michael Bush
Advertising Age

At a time when every brand wants to master social media, what’s a marketer that’s already pretty darn good at it to do when it’s muzzled by lawyers?

That’s precisely the conundrum JetBlue seems to be facing amid the media sensation that is Steve Slater, who, shortly after noon Monday, when JetBlue flight 1052 arrived at the gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International from Pittsburgh International, quit his job dramatically: by exiting via the inflatable evacuation slide. For a brand that’s become known for its customer service and is a leader in the social-media space for its rapid responsiveness and transparency, JetBlue has had little to say on a matter that’s bringing it tons of PR buzz.

As the widely reported story goes, a fight with a rude passenger was the last straw for Mr. Slater. He got on the in-flight PA system to drop some expletives, grabbed a couple beers to chug after his ride down the exit chute, and walked off the tarmac and to his car. He then drove to his beachfront home in Rockaway, N.Y., only to be arrested shortly after on criminal mischief and reckless endangerment charges. With bail set at just $2,500, it’s probably just a matter of time before Mr. Slater will be out of jail and working the late-night talk-show circuit.

Overnight, a slew of Facebook pages cropped up dedicated to the flight attendant. A public page for Steven Slater already has nearly 50,000 fans as of press time, while a "Free Steven Slater" page approaches 15,000 fans. Then there’s a "WWSSD?" page (What Would Steve Slater Do), a Steve Slater PayPal fund and, maybe the most telling of his rapidly rising star, the "Can Steven Slater Get More Fans Than Justin Bieber?" page.

While brand Slater has taken off, brand JetBlue is doing its best to keep its distance.

Take a look at JetBlue’s Facebook page and it’s as if the incident never happened — there’s not one mention of the incident. On Twitter, there were just three tweets acknowledging the situation, two of them blunt responses to a CNN reporter along the lines of, "We will not comment further on ongoing investigations."

Even its head of marketing and avid Twitter user Marty St. George (@martysg) has been mum, while JetBlue’s lead marketing agency, Mullen, declined to comment (as did resident social-media expert Edward Boches).

When Ad Age asked the airline to comment for this story, a spokesman said, "I’m afraid we aren’t able to assist you (or any other media outlet) with additional information at this time."

"One of the difficulties they are facing is they have to reconcile the contradiction between the public’s expectations that they are going to get the full story from JetBlue immediately, especially based on JetBlue’s history," said Jonathan Bellinger, VP-social media strategy at Omnicom Group’s Ketchum.
Indeed, the airline was one of the first companies that used social media to be transparent and address customers’ concerns and compliments alike via the web. In so doing, it has put a lot of thought into how it structures things such as its Twitter presence, which currently is a seven-person operation with participation from multiple disciplines including corporate communications and its loyalty marketing program TrueBlue. In a wide-ranging interview with Ad Age last month, JetBlue’s Mr. St. George said, "Fundamentally this is a brand with a customer base that skews young and affluent; they are on social media, and we want to be where our customers are."

Said Mr. Bellinger: "Right now they are probably trying to reconcile that desire they are seeing from the public and that precedent they’ve set with pretty strict restrictions being forced upon them by the FAA and maybe Homeland Security and whoever else is involved. The expectation among myself and any other consumer, based on their own precedent, is that they are going to talk about it, and that has to be a tricky situation to navigate it. They have no choice, and it’s probably frustrating to them on the inside because they are used to responding to this type of thing very quickly and in a very transparent way."

While Mr. Slater’s actions have been overwhelmingly met with cheers from the public, the legal ramifications of his behavior are numerous. "People are laughing in support of this guy, but as much as they would like to keep that humor about it, they have to worry about lawsuits," said Michael J. McSunas, a lawyer with Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.

Mr. McSunas said that if JetBlue is observed to be taking the matter lightly on Twitter or in discussions with the media, it could be used against the company by Mr. Slater or the Federal Aviation Authority. "He can say the company’s position was that it wasn’t a serious issue. … The FAA could say this is a major breach and you’re not taking it seriously and are making light of it." It’s possible that passengers on the flight could bring legal action too.

"I guess they could say they suffered emotional trauma. Whether they’d be successful or not is a different story," said Mr. McSunas. "I would advise a client to not necessarily address the matter on Twitter or Facebook, but if people are posting about it, respond with something like, ‘Joking aside, this is a serious issue, and our passengers safety and security is the number one priority for us.’"

For all the tension the incident is bringing JetBlue, experts say that, in the end, Mr. Slater is likely to bring mostly positive attention to the brand.

"Usually when a flight attendant gets called out it’s for something they have done wrong that pissed off passengers," said Mr. Bellinger. "But when an attendant does something where passengers say they wish they would do the same thing at their own job, that’s great. It’s a net positive story for the brand."

Noted Steve Rubel, senior VP-director of Insights at Edelman Digital, "JetBlue has done a good job of building a tremendous amount of relationship capital with the online community by embracing new digital platforms and communicating with people through them so they might not have to answer as many questions about the details of this incident. When a company puts itself out there as a company adept and active in social media, it gains social capital that it can cash in later on in a crisis or legal situation."

53 Comments

  1. Wonderful to read!

  2. Great post!

  3. Sorry for the huge review, but I’m really loving the nfl, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

  4. Could not help but think there are more vital questions toward which we should be directing our interest and employing our tools. What number of publication pages are abused with full-color photographs of various super stars, and just how much data transfer rate is thrown away everyday by constant ramblings of celeb groupies?

  5. I dislike FASHION, I cannot depend upon persons with empty-stomach breathing to tell me and my peers what style is.

  6. Found your site today through Yahoo. Great blog you’ve got, bookmarked.

  7. Thank God we have a common interest, thank you for sharing, you’re a good author. Hope to see more of your articles. Juno sincere.

  8. I like this sport. You like it? what you think of it? If you have some time, it may wish to continue your article to share with you the happiness.

  9. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. 🙂

  10. I cant believe the NHL is going to risk losing one of the best players in his prime to the nHL

  11. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day 🙂

  12. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  13. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  14. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  15. It’s very good, I like it. Thanks very muchwholesale cheap nhl nfl jerseys.

  16. Thanks for the good read. I very appreciated this! I do not usually comment on blogs however this one really had been fascinating. I will save for later.

  17. Loving the information on this web site , you have done great job on the blog posts.

  18. Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

  19. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care and see you soon

  20. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  21. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  22. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  23. Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned 🙂

  24. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here 🙂

  25. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

  26. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

  27. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  28. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day 🙂

  29. It was a very nice idea! Just wanna say thank you for the information you have diffused. Just continue composing this kind of post. I will be your true reader. Gives Thanks once more.

  30. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. 🙂

  31. Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

  32. Thank you for great article. I had a very good time reading, and there were few things I was surprised by.

  33. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

  34. Dreamin. I love blogging. You all express your feelings the right way, because they are your feeling, focus on your blog it is great.

  35. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care and see you soon

  36. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  37. A good submit indeed! That is the sunny side of your writing, you publish in a very lucid manner and I have no problem to recognize what you have mentioned, even though I’m a novice. Keep the excellent get the job done heading by carry on blogging new and entertaining posts.

  38. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  39. Good day. First of all – interesting blog! Secondly this information was also good and interesting to read, but I don’t think everything you have said is how it is in reality. I will need to google about few things you have mentioned in your artcile to make sure. But anyway thanks for the great effort and good luck on writing other articles. P.S sorry for bad English, I aren’t English native speaker.

  40. Hi there! I really love reading your blog today! Keep making great posts and I will come back every day!!

  41. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here 🙂

  42. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  43. A mi el tarot me ayudado. Desde hoy mejoraras. Arregla tus situaciones, nunca te rindas. Buena Suerte. Una vida espectacular te espera.

  44. I’ve been keeping my eye to the Triboro web page (and their leftovers) to get a although.

  45. The thing is that – this wont work effectively by any means. Crazy idea, EOT!

  46. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  47. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  48. Amazing writing!! I am going to take some time to ponder your site!!

  49. Because of the Brand new Staff to get a wonderful year of testimonials.I constantly adore the top and Worst l ist, though I suppose th is yr you may have m issed some monumental f*ckups for the ??Worst??? l ist. Logos like ANZ, Frigidaire, Packard Bell and Tropicana all of which got a unanimous bollocking in the Brand Newbians. On the ??Best??? , I would have incorporated:Apollo Meiji Woolworths FICOJack in the box or AVID.

  50. Because of the Fresh Workforce for any wonderful 12 months of assessments.I continually enjoy the perfect and Worst l ist, although I consider th is 12 months you might have m issed some monumental f*ckups for that ??Worst??? l ist. Logos like ANZ, Frigidaire, Packard Bell and Tropicana all of which got a unanimous bollocking from the Brand Newbians. To the ??Best??? , I would have integrated:Apollo Meiji Woolworths FICOJack inside the box or AVID.

  51. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)