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PR and the Threat of New Technology: Kevin Smith puts Southwest Airlines on the defense March 6, 2010

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In mid-February 2010, film director Kevin Smith was removed from his seat on a Southwest Airlines flight to Burbank, California, for being “too fat”. Deemed a safety risk, Smith was forced to pack up in front of other passengers, and was offered a $100 voucher for his actions. Although Southwest has had the “customer of size” policy for quite some time, the airline’s messing with Smith made headlines because of his constant use of Twitter after the incident.

According to PR experts evaluating Southwest’s response, the company did a decent job but made several mistakes in dealing with this crisis. In particular, the company treated Smith as just another customer, which further infuriated him. Those Southwest representatives responding to Smith’s complaints on Twitter, some have said since the controversy, should have had a response from the CEO of Southwest Airlines.

For more on this story, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How did Kevin Smith’s constant Twittering after his embarrassing moment highlight the new dangers posed to PR campaigns by new technology?

2.  Assume that you have been hired as Kevin Smith’s front-person in the campaign. How would you have changed his rhetoric here?

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