Tag Archives: ethics

How to Not Handle a Crisis: United Airlines

While companies plan for success and upbeat public relations stories, most companies do not plan for crisis situations or public relations snafus. But, they all should do so, as was recently experienced by United Airlines.

First, there was a ‘leggings scandal’ when the airline refused to seat “pass travelers” (employees and dependents traveling free on a standby status) who were wearing leggings, and thus not judged to be dressed appropriately. This one was noteworthy on social media, but not troublesome.  Puma jumped on the social media trend and offered 20% off leggings at its U.S. stores to anyone who brought in a United Airline ticket!

However, the next situation was much more serious as United Airlines had a man dragged off a flight when he refused to give up his seat (due to overbooking), so that a United employee could fly instead of him. The man suffered a broken nose, concussion, and lost two front teeth, according to lawyers representing him in a lawsuit against United Airlines. There was no transparency into how customers were selected to be bumped off the flight.

The company was slow to apologize to the man, and the entirety of the plane’s passengers. It now faces a crisis communications situation. What should it do?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the role of public relations and crisis communications in a brand’s promotional mix.
  2. Discuss the problem that United Airlines faced. Various videos of the event are available online: https://youtu.be/VrDWY6C1178
  3. What are the student opinions of this incident? Are these actions legal, or ethical?
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team prepare a crisis communication plan for the above situation.
  5. What elements and needed in the plan?
  6. Teams can also research other public relations disasters to see how each was handled. (Remember Chipotle, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Wells Fargo?)

Source:  New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, other news sources   

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The Helping Heart Jacket


Regardless of where one lives in the world, there is almost always someone who is less fortunate. While many people will donate to homeless people and panhandlers, many other people will not donate because they may not have cash, or may have concerns about how the money will be spent.

An innovative product is being tested by the homeless in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The “helping heart” jacket has an embedded donation screen. The public can then simply tap a contactless card (debit or credit) and give a fixed one Euro donation. The donated funds are deposited into an account for the person and are redeemable at official homeless shelters. The donations can be used for food, shelter, sleep, showers, and more daily functions.

It is an interesting concept and use of wearable technology. One that ultimately changes lives, one at a time.

Have a heart.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss social responsibility with the class.
  2. What are some common concerns that students have about donating money to homeless people?
  3. Show the video: https://youtu.be/HGG46rKARzQ
  4. How does this solution address the problem?
  5. Are there other social problems that technology can help with?
  6. Challenge teams of students to design solutions to social problems.

Source: Brandchannel.com


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Ikea Designs Refugee Shelters


Ikea is known for showing its customers how to have great design in small spaces. Many of its stores feature small footprint rooms and apartments that are beautifully and inexpensively furnished. That’s great for a large portion of the world, but what about people who lack even basic necessities in housing and care?

Recently, Ikea has taken to the small space format to highlight the challenges faced by Syrians living in a 25 square meter room of cinder block walls, with few furnishings and possessions. Based on a real home in Damascus, the room tells the story of the difficulties faced by people living in a civil war zone.

Ikea’s flagship store in Norway built the exhibit to draw attention to the Syrian crisis. In the room are posters and tags that tell the story of a typical Syrian family, including their struggles around the lack of food, medicine, and clean water. The price tags serve as donation slips and are part of a fundraising effort with the Red Cross.

The installation ran for several weeks in October and was seen by more than 40,000 visitors weekly, raising 22 million euros for the Red Cross efforts in Syria. It was an effort by the Ikea Foundation, a separate for-profit enterprise that is part of the Ikea stores.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss social responsibility of businesses.
  2. Show the Ikea video: https://vimeo.com/190261411
  3. Discuss how important shelter is for all people in a crisis situation. Bring up the Web site for Better Shelter: http://www.bettershelter.org/
  4. Another video detailing shelters designed by Ikea: https://youtu.be/krBzZ2A57o4
  5. Have students work in teams to look up the social responsibility actions of some of their favorite brands. What are these companies doing? What more could be done?

Source:  Ad Week, Brandchannel.com, other news sources


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