Category Archives: Lynne Doll

Can JetBlue Recover?

The ultimate question of crisis management and crisis communication has to do with recovery. JetBlue has given itself a monstrous black eye. And now, they are in the middle of the traditional media ‘black hat” spin cycle. Can it recover?

The basic rules for response when things have gone wrong are:
1) Accept responsibility
2) Apologize and make restitution if possible
3) Clearly identify the changes that will be made to prevent recurrence
4) Identify how future reports on progress will be made

Oh, yes, and do this all in the first few hours after the event–or as soon as is feasible given the distribution of the bad news in the instant news world.

So, how is JetBlue doing. Here is today’s New York Times report (thanks Neil!). http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/19/business/19jetblue.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

1) Accept responsibility. Yes and No. Neeleman’s quote that he was humiliated and mortified is good–very good even. But he blames management. Who is management? Ultimately, he is. He certainly doesn’t go as far as Johnson and Johnson executive in charge of the foreign divisions who accepted full responsibility and resigned–even though he was not aware of the problem. I’m not saying that Neeleman needed to resign–but acceptance of his own level of responsibility for not putting in place the management that he now says is missing is a problem.
2) Apology and restitution. Yes and No. He said he would announce a compensation system tomorrow. Too bad not today. There certainly sounds like genuine repentance in there, but until tomorrow comes, we don’t know. And that’s a problem, because the judgment is being made today in many people’s minds. Tomorrow, the plan will have to better than what it would have been if announced today.
3) Clearly identify the changes to be made. Mostly No. While Neeleman identified the problem as communication and lack of trained staff, the solution presented is to train 100 corporate office staff to help do the resource allocation work that was missed here. I don’t know about that. I think I would have been more comfortable with something a little more substantive addressing specifically the lack of staff, or inadequate training, or inadequate communication infrastructure than just saying we have to train some more corporate staff.
4) Report back. No sign of promise about future communication on this.

Mr. Neeleman did make an interesting comment: “We will be a different company because of this.” As I learned recently from Lynne Doll, president of The Rogers Group and one of the nation’s best crisis communication experts, every organization is a different organization coming out of a crisis. In fact, a crisis can almost be defined as an organization altering event. So, Mr. Neeleman spoke the truth here, even if it is a somewhat obvious one. What is not completely clear–and needed to be to come out of this with a higher likelihood of regaining credibility and confidence–is whether it will be a better company. Mr Neeleman and his communication team still have some work to do to convince the public and passengers of that in my opinion.

Disaster Planning in LA

I’ve missed several days of posting (unusual for me) primarily because I was in LA and my hotel was switching to wifi from wired and I couldn’t get online. (they forgot to tell me to push the “free” button rather than putting in my room number to pay for it)

I was invited to speak at the LA Chamber of Commerce meeting along with Lynne Doll, president of The Rogers Group. Lynne and I spoke about Crisis Communications. But the meeting was focused on preparing a businesses and organizations for disasters. The first presenter was Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the head of Public Health for LA County. His presentation was on pandemic flu planning and the two remarkable things that stood out for me was that in LA county, 50% of the population of 10 million speaks English. That means 50% do not. The other remarkable thing was that the consensus among world health experts is that the chance of a pandemic involving HN51 is 100%. Yes, that is correct. Most likely not this flu season, but the next.

But it was the keynote speaker that really got my attention. Dr. Lucy Jones is a celebrity of sorts in LA as the region’s top earthquake expert. Her review of the last “big one” in 1857 involving the San Andreas fault, the impact that such a quake would have today in LA, the simulations showing where shaking would occur at what magnitude, the fact that the big one is over 100 years past due–well, I am not a fraidy cat but I have to admit to seriously thinking about running out and getting on the first plane back to safe Seattle. Of course, when I got back to Seattle, the news was about the earthquake near Mt Rainier and whether that was a sign of volcanic activity. Back to LA.

The message for me clearly was preparation. For the first time, I am getting serious about some flu preparations for my two companies. The first step and most important, is to make certain that we can work as a team without being together in the office. The likelihood is that we will stay home–in part to deal with family at home, but mostly to limit social contact. We will be a telecommuting company. And since we are in the crisis communication business, including helping businesses stay in touch with their employees, it is critical that we keep operation, keep our technologies operating, keep ourselves healthy and be available for those who will desperately need us.

What are you doing to get ready?