Watching the United Airlines train wreck unfold in the news and especially across social channels over the past several days has been horrifically educational. Except, perhaps, for the folks in charge at United. Which, frankly, I don’t get.

Isn’t this the guy PRWeek awarded “Communicator of the Year” – oh, that was before LeggingsGate and now DraggingGate.

And yes, I mean to pile on. You almost can’t Google “United” without wading through responses from the PR/Marketing crowd – all of us collectively scratching our heads and trying for the life of us to figure out the answer to one simple question. Why, God, why?

The specifics surrounding the astoundingly dumb (and probably illegal) decision made by United employees to forcibly remove a seated passenger are almost irrelevant. Fact is, the PR nightmare that cost United’s parent company more than $1 BILLION in valuation was entirely avoidable.

Yes, the cops-gone-wild viral video was bad for United. But it was fixable. IF – and it’s a huge if – United had reacted with something more than indifference, if Communicator of the Year Oscar Munoz had gone on TV five minutes after catching wind of the brewing social storm, if, if, if.

Seriously. All Munoz had to do was say five minutes into the crisis what his lawyers presumably allowed him to say two days later. Express genuine sorrow for the victim. Express genuine outrage at his employees. Fire the idiot who cost his company a billion dollars.

He’d be shining up his Communicator of the Year award for a second trophy.

This isn’t me talking. It’s the entire marketing universe. It’s that much of a no-brainer. The only thing none of us really understands about this situation is that aforementioned simple question.

Jeff Peyton

Author Jeff Peyton

Jeff Peyton is Director of Marketing & Communications for Triple Strength.

A 30-year veteran of publishing and corporate communications, Jeff gained national prominence directing one of the largest grassroots communications efforts ever fielded. He was the architect of the nation’s first major nonprofit website, attracting millions of visitors per month in the early 1990s – years before social media, twitter, or even broadband access. Jeff spent nearly 10 years working with nonprofits, developing their communications and Web strategies.

But don’t be fooled by his professional accomplishments – he also wing-walked on an airplane at 700 feet, co-piloted the Goodyear Blimp, swam with sharks, and still managed to obtain paperwork officially declaring him “legally sane.” (No, really.)

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