Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on the importance of words in the context of delivering a message. The main thrust of the piece was my dislike of certain code words that are meant to dress up a negative message and portray it as a positive event. Marketing and public relations folks are likely the most frequent abusers of this strategy. I was talking about words like “right-sizing” or “right-sourcing”.

The fact is people, consumers or customers or employees, see through this activity and know they are being scammed. There are almost inevitably two reactions.

1)      People feel insulted that the message bearer would think they are stupid enough to believe the message.

2)      People get mad because they know they are going to pay a very dear price for whatever adventure the company is about to embark upon.

This type of intentional deception is not limited to words. Companies also practice deceptive behavior. As marketing professionals, we must not allow ourselves to be co-opted into these schemes.

A friend of mine sent me an article today related to an accident involving Thai Airlines.  As airline accidents go, this was not a disaster. A few folks were injured, there were no fatalities. The airplane skidded off the runway. There were fourteen injuries. One of the landing gear collapsed during the event.

Sometime, shortly after the accident, someone was dispatched to black out or paint over, the airline logo and name displayed on the vertical stabilizer at the aft end of the airframe. You really have to wonder what marketing genius green lighted this strategy. I guess the site of the hobbled aircraft, with emergency slides deployed, was just too much for the image consultants to bear.

Even though the color scheme on the airframe identifies the airline just as effectively as the logo or the name painted on the tail, someone decided that blacking out the name would surely fool some of the people!

My first thought is these guys care far more about damage control then damage prevention or investigation. That is not a confidence inspiring realization. That would affect my selection of one carrier over another much more than the fact that the carrier had had a recent accident.

I’m far more interested in how a company reacts to a crisis then knowing if they have experienced a crisis. There are very few airlines flying today that can claim an accident free history.

An airline that reacts quickly to help the customers involved in the accident, to learn what caused the accident and to take steps to avoid a repeat of the accident is far more inspiring than one that seeks to hide the fact that an accident even occurred.

When I’m flying along at 90% of the speed of sound, through a -70⁰ vacuum, stuffed into a metal tube along with several hundred other folks and a couple of thousand gallons of high-grade kerosene, I want to know that the folks upfront driving the plane and their bosses back home, value honesty over deception.