Ashleigh Johnston, Account Executive

In crisis communication, we focus on when brands mess up, when an employee goes rogue or just generally when things go wrong. Airlines are a repeat offender, as fares continue to rise and service decreases. However, one airline crafted a PR stunt that you can’t help but smile about.

Passengers were invited to share their Christmas wish with a virtual Santa Claus at check in. When they landed, instead of luggage coming around the carousel, it was gift-wrapped presents with everyone’s name on them containing exactly what they had asked for. From big screen TV’s to flights home, no gift was neglected. Not to mention, Santa himself made a special appearance making it a full holiday experience.

The event was taped and uploaded to YouTube. It was a great feel-good story and as the video went viral, the passengers weren’t the only ones with happy tears as presents flood the baggage claim area.

In addition, WestJet said if the video was viewed more than 200,000 times, it would work with the Ronald McDonald House charity to send a family in need on vacation. It was a fantastic idea to distinguish themselves from other airlines, and gain goodwill points with the public.

WestJet clearly understood the importance of having a presence on social media, by uploading the video to YouTube and offering a charitable donation based on the number of views and incentive for viewers to share. What many brands forget about social media is, if you want people to share your message, all you have to do is ask.

The stunt gained the attention of travel blogs, news sites and spanned the gamut of social media networks. The creativity, thoughtfulness and clever way the idea was both conceived, carried out and passed along made this an absolute PR success.

By now, anyone in marketing, PR and advertising should recognize the importance of incorporating social media into a campaign. This is a reminder that we can spread our message while doing something sincere for customers to earn their repeat business, which in turn establishes a solid reputation and creates a good business model.