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Response time was crucial for United

Social media pundits are all abuzz this morning with Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s popular YouTube video taking United Airlines to task over a guitar he claims its employees broke last year. The video even features actresses portraying United employees ignoring his complaints. It’s a country tune (the melody line for the verses reminds me of a Johnny Cash tune called “Soldier Getting Over the War“). Another week, another example of consumers sticking it to the man via social media, right? Well, maybe.

We at CisionBlog don’t always feel compelled to weigh in on the firestorm of the moment, but what struck me here was that United responded quickly enough to have their response included in most mainstream news reports about the video, including The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on CNN and Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren last night. The video was posted on Monday and has received more than half a million views, including more than 300,000 this morning alone. The Canadian Press news service was the first mainstream media outlet with the story yesterday and it has been discussed on more than 300 blogs.

“While we mutually agree this should have been fixed much sooner, Dave’s excellent video provides us with something we can use for training purposes to ensure that all customers receive better service for us,” United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Being concillatory is a big key to effective engagement in a situation like this. United could just as easily have said that they were investigating the situation and declined to comment further as so often happens when companies are called out on social sites. Quickly admitting a mistake and describing plans to correct is always a better course of action. The most important thing is to diligently monitor for these situations so you can respond before it winds up on Wolf Blitzer’s teleprompter. About half of the news stories I’ve read on the topic have included the airline’s comments. What do you think of its response?

Also, does the huge spike in views of the video this morning indicate that, counterintuitively, online video is often catapulted to “viral” status by coverage in mainstream news outlets? Hmm.

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