Image Is Everything US Airways!
We've all heard the saying, "Image is Everything", right? Well someone needs to tell US Airways CEO Doug Parker.
In the minutes following that miraculous landing of US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River, local TV stations, broadcast and cable networks and radio stations all started to converge on the scene. LIVE shots were everywhere. What typically happens when reporters don't have all the information? They SPECULATE. They start talking to witnesses, or friends of witnesses, or friends of friends that knew somebody nearby, or worse yet - in the clamor to fill time and bring new information - they start putting people on the air calling on cell phones that have not been verified or confirmed.
Imagine the feeling family members must have had when every television and radio station started reporting what happened? Even worse, it was a plane incident in New York City which makes everyone even more nervous and antsy since 9-11.
So when it was announced that US Airways CEO Doug Parker was going to hold a press conference in Tempe, Arizona, everyone waited to hear what was REALLY going on. A chance to calm, reassure, and make those waiting to board planes watching in airports feel a little more at ease. I'm afraid the message missed the mark.
A CEO is the leader of a company.
The person everyone looks to for guidance. In good times it's with adoration and "attaboys". In bad times, it's for reassurance and to hear that "everything will be OK". We didn't get that on this tense day.
First, US Airways set-up a make-shift podium and press area outside their building. Why? Doesn't a billion dollar company have a press briefing room? One equipped with good lighting, a nice backdrop with the corporate logo, and maybe even a TelePrompTer? A controlled environment that shows there's an "image."
Doug walked to the podium and began to read. READ! This was not the time to read. This was a time to communicate. To show that he was in control. To make people feel things were being done. To reassure. I'm sure someone in media relations quickly wrote his statement, but there was no "feeling" or "emotion" to it. It was not delivered with any sort of confidence. The phone numbers for family or friends to call was read. The website for an ATT operator assist was read. Guys - NO ONE was sitting in front of the TV with a pencil. This is why you should control everything. If you held this press conference in a media room, these numbers could have been displayed the entire time so it could sink in.
US Airways media relations folks should have given them to all media outlets ahead of time.
As Doug was wrapping up he read, "In closing, safety is, has been, and forever will be the first priority at US Airways...." Doug - you can't read your company's priority from a piece of paper. You have to believe it. You have to feel it. If you don't, there's no way you're going to make everyone else feel it's important. This was a time for communication and to make a difference in many people's lives. It was a time to not only reassure those involved in flight 1549 but everyone that flies US Airways.
Watch the press conference here:
Doug, give us a call. We can help
written by rich,February 21, 2009