Category Archives: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airline keeps up the conversation

With apologies to T.S. Eliot, March is the cruelest month of the year.

One week before the other Eliot stepped down in the middle of a scandal, and Geraldine Ferraro played an “accidental” race card,” Southwest Airlines put three employees on paid leave and grounded 41 planes. With such an inspired management team, it has never needed to get to this level of damage control. At the Southwest blog, Nuts About Southwest, they have done an admirable job of addressing unflattering issues in the past. They are one of the few companies that allow employees and not just the marketing or PR types to be the voice of the organization. But on this issue, the lawyers seem to have been dragged in and scuttled the bloggers to the back of the plane.

Last week’s post “We take safety seriously” (about a voluntary disclosure by the airline of cracks in 2007) began with “Friends…” but had language that was more lawyered than the usual blog talk from pilots, ground staff and flight crew. This week the blog was a cut-and-paste outlet for its press releases.

Through all this, one thing they are doing a great job of is allowing readers/passengers to leave comments, many of them unflattering. Some readers have challenged the critics, but at least there is a conversation going on.


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Flight attendants on Southwest are never “on message.” That’s a good thing.

No matter what I have said about Southwest Airlines, I have to hand it to their flight attendants for not indulging in corporate-speak. Nor communications guide in their back pocket. No tact, even. At least they don’t talk as if someone gave them a work off a template.

Carole Adams shares this exchange (and many others) in Nuts About Southwest:

Passenger: Do I have to sit in the middle seat? (Last available seat)
Adams: When you’re the last one to the dinner table for Sunday dinner, you don’t get the best piece of chicken.

Now, if marketing had to craft that exchange,it would have been something like:

“Company policy on free seating allows passengers to adopt boarding strategies that ensure they get the seating most compatible with their desired flying experience.”

And the legal department?

“The rights of a legitimate ticket holder on any of the 3,300 domestic and international flights a day, permits passenger or a nominated agent to request in advance, with no obligation or bias, a boarding pass that provides an aisle or window seat in accordance with FAA regulations and marketing policy. For further clarification, please see our marketing response – above.”

Adams wins, hands down.

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Posted by on November 2, 2007 in Best Practices, Southwest Airlines



Where SEO meets social media meets PR

Yesterday, IABC’s Phoenix chapter
put together a terrific meeting on something that’s on everyone’s
radar. I suspect the topic (“Using SEO & Other PR Tactics to
Communicate with Social Communities in a Web 2.0 World”) was
intentionally long and geeky to make a point. More on this later.

had pried open the controversial but hot topic of Search Engine
Optimization (SEO) and Social Media. Whenever these two buzz phrases
occur in one sentence, advertising agencies, media relations people and
marketers get a little hot around the collar. I know, because I used to
work for a SEO-meets marketing company. There are lots of myths and
concerns out there. Just a year ago SEO seemed like a lot of pixie dust
before things like Twitter and User generated Content showed up. “Social bookmarking” sounded like something Paris Hilton does when thumbing through National Inquirer.

Unfortunately, the world inside corporate marketing is still looking
at what’s unfolding before us as pixie dust 2.0. Look around you. The
world of marketing and PR is roughly divided into people who think “we
don’t have a budget for this crap” and those who go “could we upload
this sucker to YouTube?” So it’s about time we discuss Google Juice, and Digg, and the social media press release, and what in the world is Facebook up to, trying to upstage our beloved search engines.

Could people game the search engine, someone asked? Do “Diggs” mean
anything a few days after the story breaks? Was there some ‘white-hat’
way to get better rankings on search results? Everyone probably knew
the answer to that last one. Sure, there are black-hat methods of
sneaking past the algorithm, and there’s marketing.

You don’t need to know how this algorithm thing works, but if you
accept the logic behind it, then you gotta work on it. Good case in
point: Southwest Airlines.
Three years ago, they optimized a press release by editing it based on
search terms they had been tracking. They tracked the results and saw a
direct correlation to a spike in sales. They won an award for this. It’s a matter of crafting headlines and knowing where to drop in a hyperlink, and a meta tag.

Which brings me to the MarketWire topic. Google (or Yahoo) the words
“SEO PR social media” and see if IABC Phoenix is anywhere in sight. Now
Google (or Yahoo) the topic (Using SEO & Other PR Tactics to
Communicate with Social Communities in a Web 2.0 World) and see what
pops up at the top of your search results. Brilliant huh?

Or is it still pixie dust?

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