#BritishAirways Reputation Crash : Mayday Mayday Mayday !!!

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to market brands. And social media is the best place to get people talking about you. One person shares about your brand with their network; certain people from that network share with their own and as this process continues, your message snowballs across the platform, increasing your visibility. It is what every marketer hopes for when launching a social media campaign. But then, there’s always a flip side. And this one can bring your reputation down in a matter of minutes. All it takes is for one irate customer’s critical post to go viral.

And British Airways (unfortunately for them) is currently the perfect example for this point. #BritishAirways has been trending a lot over the past week but for all the wrong reasons. And they owe it all to one blog post “Indians comfort and loss of time is of no value to British Airways”, which has been doing rounds on almost every social media platform. It talks about the rude behavior of British Airways employees, especially towards Indian passengers. Although the airline company has been a subject of numerous such online complaints from passengers, including racial discrimination before, this post has spread like wildfire and hurt their reputation bad. In just five days, the post received about a 1000 comments (mostly against BA), over 10,000 shares on Facebook and 1000 plus shares on Twitter.

The online sentiments surrounding the airlines have mostly been negative over the past week. Many websites have put up articles about the post, some of which made the Google news.

Indians comfort and loss of time is of no value to British Airways http://t.co/aoQvcp16N9 — Snigdha Jain (@traveler_budget) June 1, 2014

How British Airways treats Indian passengers: … http://t.co/2LkhiHllPX

— VISHAL DADLANI (@VishalDadlani) June 3, 2014

That’s the thing about social media; you don’t know when a seemingly inconsequential post could cause a massive reputation crisis. And seeing as your sales revenue and brand equity are all tied to your reputation, you need to constantly be on your toes. The key is to immediately reach out to the source of the problem before it gets out of hand, which is where most companies fail. British Airways is one of the top airline companies in the world with reputed customer service, and it did issue an offline apology to the concerned traveler. But it did so after 3 days of this blog coming up and by that time the damage had been done.

Air France found itself in a similar situation last October, when a customer posted an open letter to their CEO highlighting the flight delay and bad customer service, dropping hints of racism on the employee’s part. Since the time it was first posted, the blog has received around 75,000 Facebook likes, 2000 Twitter mentions and 1000 Google+ shares. All because they waited thirty hours before addressing the issue in public.

Another important point to note is that such issues need to be addressed online. The most fundamental part of Online Reputation Management is talking to your audience, some of whom are already customers and others who could potentially convert, especially in a crisis situation. But in this case, BA has not engaged any of the users who posted against them as of yet.

So how can you avoid or handle a similar situation? Three words- SOCIAL MEDIA LISTENING. If you listen to online conversations surrounding your company, you can get an early warning about any post that could turn into a crisis like this and tackle it at the right time. You can also identify the influencers who can help you to balance the negative sentiments. But the perks of monitoring don’t just end there. You could gain deeper insights and do a lot more to manage your online reputation.

So get to listening what people are saying about your brand and you just might avoid ever having to send out a distress signal!