Scratch the gloss

Published by Tony Quinlan on

This is a great example of a number of crucial things in communications – authenticity, direct response, human face on organisational issues and responding to crises/cock-ups.  It’s from David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue Airways.

He’s not polished.  And if he were, the video would lose in impact.

He’s not avoiding the issue or trying to make excuses.  He’s addressing both customers and the issues fairly directly.  Cutting out other media (although no doubt he’s also talking to them in greater detail) in order to ensure his message gets through as clearly as possible.  No Chinese whispers.

It’s more than just an email or letter – it’s using as many senses as possible.  And putting a human face on it.


I was recently party to a debate on one of the communications mailing lists that disturbed me – the topic was what to do with bad news.  And a sizeable number of people went down the route of “how do we hide/disguise it” or “how do we stop it escalating so that people actually hear about it.”  I can’t be doing with that.

Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public, but at the same time don’t restrict bad news simply because it’s bad.  Instead, telling the bigger story allows people to put it into context.  Apologise (persuade the legal department to let you), talk about what you’re doing to help those affected now and then address how you stop it happening again.

It allows you to treat your listeners/watchers/readers as though they’re intelligent adults, able to see the organisation in more than just black and white.  You never know, it might even start an intelligent informed conversation rather than just a one-way stream of propaganda.  Resulting in actual understanding, a real relationship and genuine results.