Posts Tagged ‘Paula Berg’

Peeking Behind the Curtain at Southwest – Paula Berg

September 20, 2009

After being introduced by Melissa Taylor from Porter Novelli as a little “wacky and off the wall” and heading the blog called “Nuts about Southwest,” we knew we were in for an interesting keynote. Paula Berg did not disappoint, providing the group with an entertaining look into how Southwest airlines integrates social media into their communication.

Berg started by providing us with the background of the “Nuts about Southwest” blog. Originally it started as a way to follow up the A&E series Airline featuring Southwest employees. The success of the show revealed increases in sales and job applications. The airline had no editorial control over the show and though at times there were some “cringe moments,” they trusted their employees to represent the company.

After a nine-month planning phase, the blog team had established the main goals and objectives and found those “people who oozed Southwest” to post to the blog. Their overall plan with social media was to connect with people they way they wanted to connect. In the process, they got to know their audience including those who wrote aviation blogs and participated in forums related to aviation.

Case Studies

Berg also discussed a few case studies featuring how Southwest has used social media in various situations. Each provided Southwest with valuable lessons to incorporate into their overall strategy. When they asked their customers to comment about their preferences between open and assigned seating, they got an overwhelming response to keep their open seating policy.  Southwest learned “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and more importantly to keep what makes them unique.

The airline has faced two major public relations situations in recent years, involving sensitive topics. In the first one, the received negative feedback in a situation regarding a woman wearing revealing clothes being asked to cover up by flight attendants, they chose to wait before responding. As a consequence, when Southwest again faced negative feedback dealing with the “too pretty to fly” story, Berg revealed they applied the lessons and created a three-pronged approach to respond. The plan provided an online spokesperson, create an official statement, and a YouTube video.

One of the biggest threats to the Southwest reputation happened in March 2008 when the FAA fined the airline $10.2 million for inspections. This situation was the first where the legal department stepped in to limit the conversation. Berg said that they could only repost information already posted, but not create any new content. Though the received much fewer comments during this situation, they learned to “take every situation seriously.”

Berg also discussed some of the tools Southwest uses outside of the blog. The airline uses YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. One of their most popular recent videos was of a rapping flight attendant. That video sparked popularity for others on their YouTube channel. He has since been dubbed the rhythmic ambassador for Southwest.

In all of the case studies discussed, Berg emphasized that the “micro interactions lead to lasting impressions,” providing organizations with a unique opportunity to connect with their audiences.

Berg left the group with four key takeaways:

1)      Establish channels before a crisis

2)      Don’t be afraid to join the conversation

3)      Act fast – don’t hesitate

4)      Build a strong team

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