The start of the year brought another reminder of the importance of public relations for transportation companies as NPR reported that Amtrak Asked 2 People Who Use Wheelchairs To Pay $25,000 For A Ride. This fiasco comes on the heels of Boeing’s ongoing effort to repair their image after the grounding of their 737 Max planes and nearly two years after a man was dragged off a United Airlines flight in Chicago. Going into a new decade ripe for advances in technology and transportation means the strength of a trusted public relations team and crisis management experts has never been more important.
“Ultimately the best crisis communications is in prevention and developing a culture that rewards everyone in an organization —from the front lines to the C-suite—for putting the customers first,” said Dennis Culloton, CEO of Culloton + Bauer Luce. “This is especially true for the transportation industry brands. Every day travelers are faced with challenges in reaching their destination by trains, planes and automobiles and these are golden opportunities to rise to the occasion.”
The last thing any transportation company wants to see is bad headlines, or worse- a viral video, portraying their service in a negative light. The common theme in the incidents from United to Boeing to Amtrak is a stale corporate culture guided with by-the-book responses with little empathy for employees or customers trying to solve a problem. The playbook of the past has rewarded staying within the guidelines of traditional media responses and never deviating from the rules. What these incidents portray to the public is a large transportation companies valuing profit over people. The 2020s will bring an era of humanity to technology issues and having an empathetic human response with guidance from public relations strategists will topple a corporate handbook every time.
The lesson for any traveler or transportation company is it’s harder to rebuild trust, or rework an itinerary, after a crisis of confidence. The downfall of a brand is always faster than the speed of rebuilding trust in consumers. Whether planning a trip or a corporate announcement, getting responsible guidance from digital strategists and media experts with years of service in the industry is a must.