It’s safe to say that Kevin Smith, the well known director and producer of cult-classics such as Clerks, is not nuts about Southwest. If you’ve been hiding under a rock and missed last weekend’s (turned this week’s) PR fire drill for SouthWest; Smith was asked off of a Southwest plane with the airline citing their two-seat rule for passengers who don’t safely fit in two seats. Smith, who is also a new media media influencer in every essence of the word, took to social media after that, giving his side of the story.
In a slew of Tweets following the incident, Smith detailed his take on the Southwest policy. Ever since then (now nearly a week after the incident), it has been “he said,” “she said,” between Southwest and a man with 1.6 million Twitter followers.
Such is corporate communications life in the world of new influencers. No matter how social media savvy your PR department and company is (Southwest is pretty savvy), Smith and others don’t walk around with Twitter badges on.
But a funny thing happened as this incident transpired. Southwest did a lot of things to make the bad situation better. They noted to their Twitter followers that they’d be contacting Smith by phone (code: offline). They posted an “apology” on their blog and updated it after talking with Smith (who voiced issues with the language in the post). They did a lot of things right. Smith even took hits from media members noting the incident was hurting his brand more than Southwest’s brand.
What can be learned from the incident? This won’t be the last time a high-profile person (with a large social media platform) is “wronged” by a company. Mistakes will happen and the Twitter-storm will follow. However, if you take the time to gather facts, take the conversation off-line, address it personally, don’t treat the person with the platform any different than another customer and mean what you’re saying – it can be handled.