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Corporate mottos, have always served as a personification of what a company believes in and the ideals they live by – both in business and how they approach customer service. However, in today’s 24/7 news cycle, where anyone can record HD video at the press of a button, corporations are coming under fire as they realize their mottos aren’t necessarily reflective of their company’s actions. Mottos need to be more than just words; they represent who the company is – and the public is beginning to hold them accountable.
Case in point, United Airline’s motto, “Fly the friendly skies,” was quickly called out by the public, and citizen journalists, a few weeks ago in Chicago when an incident on board a flight to Kentucky resulted in a passenger being forcibly removed from the flight. This incident, which probably wouldn’t have been seen by anyone besides those on the flight a few years ago, went viral as a result of fellow passengers recording the incident and sharing it on social media. The actions of a few employees quickly had a severe effect on an entire global brand.
This case further proves that in today’s digital society, everyone is watching, and what one employee does can impact a company’s bottom line. United is not alone; in recent weeks Delta and American Airlines have also come under fire for incidents involving their customers and staff.
So what can companies do to protect their corporate reputation?
The corporate motto and mission must mean something to your employees. Gone are the days when corporations can quickly insert their corporate values in an HR handbook. In today’s age, corporate values must mean something, must permeate an organization and must reflect what the brand stands for – and what it feels comfortable being held accountable for. Once this happens, employees are more likely to embody them
The public is watching – if you don’t live and breathe your company culture, you will be held accountable. Companies should have a crisis plan ready at a moment’s notice. In the case of United, when it took three tries for United CEO, Oscar Munoz, to apologize, he quickly made a bad situation worse. Having a crisis plan already in place can help companies prepare for the worse and will help avoid ‘false starts’ like in the United case.
Joshua Swarz is a thought leadership specialist in Allison+Partners corporate practice.