When explaining the importance and value of social media, the “Miracle on the Hudson” event on Jan. 15 always comes to mind. Granted social media is not only beneficial in crisis situations, the lessons of Flight 1549 offer a powerful example of the reach, speed and active popularity of the web. We are inching our way up to a Web 3.0 era and organizations must modify their public relations programs to proactively participate in the social media playground with journalists, citizen reporters, customers and the online community-at-large.
The 60-minute window in which spokespeople relied on to deliver an initial statement are long gone. I was in Arizona when Flight 1549 landed in New York’s Hudson River. Within five minutes of its landing, I saw live coverage on CNN. The first word that came to mind was “terrorism.” The second thought was the flurry US Airway’s PR team must be in at that moment. As the information quickly unfolded and alleviated terrorism as the case, my next thought was that a plane malfunction could be devastating for US Airways’ brand given the heat all airlines were in as a result of the slumping economic climate.
Putting my PR hat on, I asked myself what I would do if I were in US Airways’ position. Deflect the attention from the malfunction and focus on the heroism of Chelsey “Sully” Sullenger III of course. This is precisely what they did.
What US Airways may not have done so well, however, is manage a swift, high-tech response. In the first 180 minutes on the “crash” several thousand postings specified the incident on Twitter, 270,000 search pages on Google were indexed, more than 2,730 related new stories had been posted online, Technorati listed more than 400 blog entries and more than 1,500 videos were posted on YouTube. Thank goodness for Sully!
The Minute-by-Minute Milestones of Flight 1549:
§ 3:29 (+0:00): Flight 1549 goes down in the Hudson River – Aircraft is an Airbus A320.
§ 3:30 (+0:01): Content related to Flight 1549 first appears on Twitter.
§ 3:31 (+0:02): Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and other mainstream networks break from regular programming.
§ 3:35 (+0:06): Initial AP coverage crosses the wire.
§ 3:38 (+0:09): First blog coverage – a compilation of AP story, ABC-TV/NY1 excerpts and CNN.com/NY1 screen grabs – appears on BrooklynVegan.com.
§ 3:46 (+0:17): CNBC reports: “The company, according to Reuters, says that they were unaware as of just moments ago of any incident involving any of the aircrafts and are investigating.”
§ 3:51 (+0:22): MSNBC begins streaming live video.
§ 3:51 (+0:22): “News Alert” e-mail pushed from The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets follow.
§ 4:15 (+0:46): The headline “Twitter Spreads News of US Airways Crash in an Instant” runs on zemanmedia.com.
§ 4:30 (+1:01): US Airways’ dark Web site activated – it immediately times out, supposedly due to traffic.
§ 4:30 (+1:01): Both the NTSB and Homeland Security announce there is no indication of terrorist activity.
§ 4:35 (+1:06): US Airways’ dark Web site reactivated – draft of statement posted but still marked as “(NOT) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” riddled with typos.
§ 4:45 (+1:16): US Airways’ dark Web site taken down – visitors land on standard reservation page.
§ 5:00 (+1:31): US Airways’ dark Web site up again – updated statement posted 5:02 (+1:33): City of New York announces Mayor Bloomberg to hold press conference at 5:30 p.m. EST (which delayed until almost 6 p.m.)
§ 5:04 (+1:35): AP reports all passengers and crew are safe.
§ 5:05 (+1:36): Doug Parker, US Airways chairman and CEO, makes a statement from US Airways headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., which is covered by most news outlets.
§ 5:16 (+1:47): Passenger list/headcount isn’t reconciled or effectively communicated – NTSB, FAA and US Airways still have conflicting numbers at time of writing.
§ 5:30 (+2:01): US Airways releases updated statement confirming the plane was carrying 150 passengers and five crew members.
§ 5:41 (+2:12): The New York Times posts story including data on A320 airframe issues (19 major accidents with 631 fatalities and 33 nonfatal accidents involving engine failures, nose gear problems and minor collisions).
§ 5:42 (+2:13): New York Sen. Charles Schumer appears on CNN – tells host that U.S. Secretary of Transportation reported that plane was brought down by “a flock or two large flocks of geese.”
§ 5:53 (+2:24): Mayor Bloomberg begins press conference with New York governor and several politicians at his side.
§ 6:15 (+2:46): Passengers from flight 1549 appears in-studio on CNN.
§ 6:15 (+2:46): Fox News runs promotion soliciting amateur photos and video of the incident.
*Timeline provided by The Strategist