Content Marketing and Reputation Management: What We Can All Learn from United’s Epic Fail [Content Marketing Podcast 223]

Apr 2017

Today we’re talking about crisis management, looking at a cautionary tale around a little company called United Airlines, and the role of content marketing in building solid online reputations.

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Welcome to Episode 223 of the Content Marketing Podcast! 

If you joined us for last week’s podcast, you’ll recall we shared some timely tips for using content marketing to get more referrals. (Need to get caught up?)

Content Marketing and Reputation Management: What We Can All Learn from United's Epic Fail  Today we’re talking about crisis management, looking at a cautionary tale around a little company called United Airlines, and the role of content marketing in building solid online reputations — before a crisis hits.

Give today’s episode a listen to hear:

  • Houston peeps, take note: Early bird pricing for the MarTech Conference has been extended to May 8. Who wants to join me there?
  • How to grab your copy of our complimentary audio “5 Things You Must Know About Content Marketing
  • Our latest News Feed segment:
  • Why the PR firestorm around United Airlines Flight 3411 has revived the conversation around reputation management
  • Why you don’t need to be a global mega-brand to be concerned about your online reputation
  • How things might have gone differently if it had been Southwest instead of United at the center of this issue … and why
  • 5 ways we can leverage content to build a bedrock of trust and goodwill in creating some insurance, or at least a buffer, if a reputation crisis does hit
  • Tip of the Week: The first thing we all must do if a complaint arises online (hat tip to Jay Baer and his book Hug Your Haters)

 Please remember that this podcast is about you — your questions, your frustrations, your hopes and dreams for your content marketing program. So please take a moment to send me your feedback, questions, or comments via email, on our Facebook Page, or via Twitter.

Today’s Video Transcript

Content Marketing Podcast 223: Content Marketing and Reputation Management: What We Can All Learn from United’s Epic Fail

April 20, 2017

This is the Content Marketing Podcast, Episode number 223: Content Marketing and Reputation Management: What We Can All Learn From United’s Epic Fail.

Hello, and welcome to the Content Marketing Podcast. This is the show where we help you grow your tribe and your bottom line through insanely good content. I am your host, Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing, and today is April 20th, 2017.

Hello, hello, or as we say in Texas, “howdy,” and thank you for joining us for today’s episode of the Content Marketing Podcast. I want to repeat a special invitation to my Houston peeps on May 25th I will have the honor of presenting at MarTech Houston. This is a fantastic one day conference, focused on the latest marketing strategies for small and medium-sized businesses and, I would love to see you there! For more information, go to visit and I can tell you that early-bird pricing has actually been extended, it is going to be available through May 8th, so grab your spot asap to save some Dollars on your registration.

This podcast is available on iTunes, SOUNDCLOUD, and Google Play Music, so if you like what you hear, please click on over and subscribe. I also invite you to download our complimentary audio “5 Things you must know about Content Marketing.” Grab your free copy to learn the 5 things you absolutely must know to reap the benefits of a solid content marketing program. To get your free download, go to

Last week we shared some timely tips for using content marketing to get more referrals. If you happened to miss that episode, feel free to check it out on iTunes or via the RSS feed.

Today we’re talking about crisis management, or as we now call it reputation management, looking at the cautionary tale around a little company called United Airlines. We’re going to talk about the role of content marketing in building and maintaining our online reputations.  But first, it’s time to check in with our News Feed for this week’s rundown of news you can use.

News Feed:

It’s been kind of a quiet week in the content universe so I have just one update to share with you

The Snapchat-icization of Instagram continues with a new re-designed Instagram Direct. Now if you’re not familiar with Instagram Direct, this is Instagram’s private messaging feature that lets you share photos and videos with select groups of friends, people you are connected with. Now you can share disappearing photos and videos in your direct chats. So here’s how that works –

  • From your news feed, you swipe left to get into “Direct” and then tap the blue camera icon to take a disappearing photo or video.
  • Once you’re done, tap the arrow again; tap the arrow to send it to individual friends or groups of friends. Just like you do on Snapchat.
  • The disappearing messages can be viewed by those you send it to, and they can only be replayed once before they disappear.
  • You can also keep track of who has seen your message through notifications within the thread. So I recommend you check that out on Instagram.

Content Hit of the Week:

Okay for our “Content Hit of the Week,” I really like this piece, it’s called “Quality over Quantity” (one of my favorite topics, right?)    “Quality Over Quantity: Publish Less, Audit More,” by Dennis Shiao on the CMSWire blog.

65 percent. That is on average how much B2B content goes unused. That is how much our B2B content goes to waste because it’s either unfindable or unusable. This is why, as Dennis asserts, we need frequent and thorough content audits. We need to

  1. Determine which content is not being used.
  2. Retire or refurbish unused content.
  3. Use what we learn to start creating new content that stands a better chance of being used.

Dennis goes on to share the details of his own mini-audit that he did of his organization’s white papers and what it revealed and how it’s informing his strategy going forward. A very, very good read and I will, of course, provide the link in the blog post for this episode. The title again “Quality Over Quantity: Publish Less, Audit More” By Dennis Shiao on the CMSWire blog.

Okay, that’s it for this week’s update — if you stumble across something you think might be of interest to your fellow content marketers, feel free to tweet it to me at @rachparker so that we can share.

Now it’s time for this week’s spotlight segment: Content Marketing and Reputation Management – What We Can All Learn From United’s Epic Fail.


If you’ve been keeping up with the news for the last couple of weeks, you have no doubt come across discussions of United Airlines Flight 3411 fiasco.

Just a quick summary …

United had some crew members that they had to get to where this flight was going; they offered the passengers incentives for giving up their seats. Nobody took them up on it, so they booted some people off, basically one of these people was a doctor who refused to give up his seat and wound up being dragged off the plane by the authorities. Anyway, there was a video of this passenger being dragged down the aisle. The video went viral, resulting in a massive PR disaster that sent United’s stock absolutely cratering. In the aftermath, they released a statement that sounded like it had been written by lawyers, then they released another statement that sounded like it had been written by lawyers.

Anyway, I’m not here to comment on what transpired, or what United should or should not have done. There has been tons of digital ink spilled over this by people smarter than I. So if you want to see from a leadership standpoint, from an employee, management standpoint, from a PR standpoint — whatever perspective you want to get of this issue, you can find it out there.

But it did once again raise the issue that does relate to our work as content marketers, and that is the issue of “reputation management.” We used to call it “crisis management,” but that was too much of a downer, right? so we all have to be happy and call it reputation management.

My point is you don’t have to be a global mega brand like United Airlines to have your reputation damaged because of something that was shared on social media.

For example, last month at the Social Media for Healthcare Marketing Conference in DC, one of the speakers was a marketer from a children’s hospital and she shared a story of a dad’s Facebook post that caused some serious problems for them. Long story short, the dad had brought one of his children in for treatment and one of the staffers made a comment that he perceived as being unkind and or insensitive. I don’t know what the comment was, the person did not share it, but the dad went home and posted it on Facebook saying “I can’t believe this person said this.” Well, the post ended up going viral, and the next day their PR team was getting calls from news outfits from as far away as Ireland asking for a comment on this issue.

So for us it’s easy to look at that United fiasco and say “Oh well, they’re a huge company; of course things like this are going to happen to them,” but actually crisis that affects our reputations can really happen to anyone of us.

So circling back what does all this have to do with content marketing? Well, I will tell you this much: once a crisis hits content won’t do you a whole lot of good. Yes, content marketing can do many things, but hey, when the villagers are showing up at your gates with torches and pitchforks it is not time to host a webinar. Okay? [laughs] It’s not time to release an E-book or a Top Ten tips list to go. It’s not going to help you there.

But what content does help you do is, so if we can take that moment where the villagers are showing up with pitchforks, rewind it a couple of years maybe and we can talk about what content does help you do. It helps you build a foundation of trust, familiarity, and goodwill, over time. And I talk about this a lot you have heard me harp on this “content marketing is not a campaign” quote my friend John Buscall. It’s a commitment, it’s something that we have to do over time, and yes over time it will yield results.

So I want you to think about this – what if the flight 3411episode had occurred on Southwest Airlines instead of on United? Think about that, now you may say, oh, it never would have happened on Southwest. That’s not my point. Let’s think about what if? Think about how these two brands are perceived.

Now Southwest has one of the strongest brand reputations in the airline industry. When people think of Southwest, they think of people-oriented; I mean, they have a heart in their logo for goodness sake, you know a little quirky — I think they were one of the first airlines to let their flight attendants have a little fun with the pre-flight safety checklist and insert a little comedy there. So that’s what people think of when they think of Southwest.

When people think United they think a massive corporation, cold. You know their motto used to be “Fly the friendly skies,” now I think it’s “We get you there.” I guess they need to tag a “maybe” under that. But very corporate, very old school, not a whole lot of warm fuzzies around the United brand.

So if this had occurred around the Southwest Airlines, would people have been more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt? Would people have seen this viral video and said “Woah! I want to learn more about this story before I draw a conclusion. Before I go out there on Twitter and create a #Never Fly Southwest,” which is what happened to United. You know, possibly and in my opinion, I think probably, because people feel like they know Southwest and that’s at least partially due to Southwest’s commitment to content marketing, and Southwest is one of the — it’s one of my go-to’s for an example of content marketing done right.

They have been committed to content for years and it has paid off in helping them create a strong, very strong brand and a very strong community. I mean Southwest even has a separate website, where they share stories from passengers, from staffers, they have a forum where people can ask questions, discuss issues related to their travel. It’s very much a community.

Now yes United also has a community site, but it’s very PR. You know that’s where they post their press releases. That is where they post their company news.

But my point is this: if this incident had happened on Southwest Airlines I honestly believe that people would have given them more of a benefit of the doubt, that the outrage would not have been so inflammatory and so immediate. I think people would have at least given the airline a chance to respond, before they drew their own conclusion, based on what they know about the brand and what they perceive about the brand.

So marketer, comrade of mine, when you think about how you are perceived in your industry, would you rather be a Southwest or would you rather be a United? And if a crisis came up that threatened your reputation, would you rather be a Southwest, or would you rather be a United?

So brands like Southwest, brands that are widely liked, okay not everybody loves them, of course they are widely liked, they are widely trusted, they have communities that have grown up around them. They didn’t get that way overnight. They got that way by cultivating relationships day after day, week after week, year after year, and a big part of that has been accomplished by leveraging the power of content.

So marketer, my friend, my colleague how can you use content to build a bedrock of trust and goodwill? So that if a crisis comes about your community will support you or at least give you the benefit of the doubt. Now is this why we do content marketing? Absolutely not, the many reasons to make content marketing a part of your strategy we have covered it many, many times (and if you want to learn those reasons pick up a copy of my book at, but we need to think about that crisis management, so how can we for lack of a better phrase “get some insurance” against the fallout from a crisis?

  1. The first thing we can do is to be good content marketers and we do that by publishing audience-focused content on a consistent basis. People don’t go to your blog to read “company news,” they don’t go there to read your press releases, they don’t go there to hear about your earnings calls. They go there to get lively, useful, engaging content that’s focused on their needs, their interests, and answering their questions. Give it to them. Give it to them today, give it to them tomorrow, give it to them six months from now, give it to them years from now, consistently and frequently. That’s the first thing we can do. Just be good content marketers.
  2. The second thing we can do is invite conversation. Even if we are publishing good audience focused content, sometimes we forget that conversational aspect of what we do. We need to be engaging with our audience, so your audience might not be big enough to warrant a dedicated hub like Southwest Airlines does. But you can still create conversation, ask people to send you their questions. Ask them to send you their stories. You can always let them know that your door is always open for them to engage with you, and if someone does engage with you, if someone does take the initiative, take it one step further ask them “Hey, is there something you’d like to see covered on our blog?” Or “Would you mind if I created; if I made this conversation the subject for the blog post?” (Anonymously of course.) But invite that conversation and let people know that you’re listening. That you are hearing what they have to say; that you are hearing their questions and that you are in the business of responding throughout that conversation.
  3. The next thing we can do always, always monitor your online reputation, if anything does come up that could damage your reputation whether it’s true or untrue or whether it’s a rant or whether it’s a troll, you need to know about it as soon as possible. You need to be able to take action as soon as possible, and that requires constant monitoring. The first thing you can do is very simple – create a Google Alert for your company name. so if someone goes out there on a blog or on another site and talks about your company, you can know about it, and then monitor all your social media channels, monitor Twitter, monitor Facebook, and there are tools for doing that and there are ways to do that, that’s not manual.

To listen and whatever platform you use for your social media management, there is probably some kind of monitoring feature that you can access. And keep in mind to monitor, when it comes to social media not just for tags, because people aren’t always going to tag you with your official Twitter account or with a mention of your Facebook page, but do search for any mention of your company name in all its various forms. So if there is a shortened version of your company name make sure you are monitoring that as well, because we all need to monitor our online reputations, and if something comes up we need to respond quickly and effectively.

  1. The fourth thing we can do is always, always respond to feedback, especially negative feedback, and I’m going to take a step back and recommend that you pick up a copy of Jay Baer’s latest book it’s called Hug Your Haters, and he actually joined usinthe podcast last year to talk about it, but Jay offered some of the most solid advice  I’ve ever encountered for dealing with negative feedback and he shows you, that is why the books is called Hug Your Haters, he shows you how handling negative feedback effectively can actually be a good thing for your organization. But we need to respond to it.
  2. And then the final thing, we need to have a crisis plan in place. Nobody wants to think about worst-case scenarios. Nobody wants to think about that tweet or that video or that Instagram popping up that could kill our reputation, but if we plan for it ahead of time, that can save you time, heartache and yes further damage if and when the substance hits the fan. (You know what I mean.) So create a crisis plan, know who will be involved, how you’ll assess the situation, if you need to get a hold of your CEO to make a statement or to do a video, know how you’re going to respond and then how you’re going to monitor the outcomes, because when a crisis hits, the adrenalin starts pumping and there is a tendency to just do stuff, whether or not that is the most effective course of action, so have that crisis plan in place, make it a part of your content marketing strategy, get the folks from customer service in there, get the folks from PR in there make sure everybody is on the same page and everyone knows exactly what to do, if you find yourself faced with a  crisis that could impact your reputation.

So that is my quick take on how content marketing can support your reputation management strategy. Remember, once a crisis hits, content is not going to help you, so what do we do? We can’t prevent, necessarily prevent a crisis from happening, but we can create that foundation of trust, create that familiarity so that people will if not rally around us immediately, at least give us the benefit of the doubt, and then once that crisis does hit, we have a way of dealing with it.

So if you have any questions or you want to share your insights on how content marketing can boost your reputation management, I would love to hear from you, feel free to tweet me @rachparker or you can always find me via the website

Now it’s time for our Content Marketing Tip of the Week

Tip of the Week:

One piece of advice from Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters that I found so simple and so effective is this: If someone goes on your Facebook page or tags you in a tweet with a complaint, about your product or service, your first goal is to take that conversation offline as quickly as possible.

What you want to do, let that person know you’re sorry, don’t necessarily apologize but let them know you’re sorry they had a problem or are having a problem, you’re sorry to hear they are unhappy with their experience and then offer them a venue for taking it offline. Don’t just give them your 800 customer service number. Give them a phone number and an email address for them to contact a member of your team.

So you want to get out there and say, okay contact me, here is my phone number, here is my email address, or contact Andrea Jones, she is the regional manager for your area, let her know, talk to her and let her know what happened, and if you are being really proactive, you can contact Andrea Jones and let her know that this complaint has come up. Whatever you do, you don’t want to let this turn into an argument for all to see. You do not want to have it turn into a “he said, she said.”

A couple of years ago there was a very famous case involving a company called Amy’s Baking Company, and you’ve probably heard about this as a cautionary tale. Someone went on their Facebook page and had something nasty to say and they responded, I mean all-caps, expletive-laden responses and it just escalated into a very, very bad thing.

So if you get negative feedback on social media or elsewhere online, on your blog, or where ever, show the person respect, let them know you hear them, offer to help and get that conversation offline as quickly as possible.

OK, campers, that’s it for me today — I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of The Content Marketing Podcast. If you like what you’ve heard today, please feel free to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play Music or via our RSS feed. And if you REALLY like what you’ve heard, please leave us a quick review on iTunes. I would so appreciate it.  Also, if you want to learn more about content marketing I highly recommend you grab a copy of my book, The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and Win,  it is now available in book and Kindle format, and you can learn more about the book and even download a free chapter at

As you know, I always like to leave you with a quote, and today’s comes from the poet William Butler Yates, he once said: “Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.” And if that is not sound advice for content marketers I do not know what is. Again, this is Rachel Parker with Resonance Content Marketing. Thank you again for listening and we will see you again next week. Take care!

Content Marketing CoachRemember to snag your copy of The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN! — now available on Amazon!

  • Find out how to connect and convert with content marketing.
  • Learn to cut through the clutter with intelligent content that resonates with your specific target audience.
  • Get the secrets for turning followers into customers … and customers into evangelists.


About the Author

Rachel Parker, Founder & CEO of Resonance Content Marketing

A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).

As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and author of the book The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN!
content_marketing_50 BizSugar Featured Author on Business 2 Community

Our Clients Are Saying

  • Increased website traffic, New Lead Generation

    We were experiencing a lack of internal resources to consistently maintain the Ustream blog. So we turned to Resonance Content Marketing to write blog posts on current industry topics while maintaining a consistent tone with the brand. The result is increased website traffic, new lead generation from gated assets on blog, and better educated/qualified leads. And I now have more time to spend on marketing strategy with the confidence that the content we push out is extremely well written and engaging.

    Rachel is an amazing writer and has really managed to create engaging and relevant blog material on topics that aren’t always super interesting. On many occasions, she has been able to quickly turn around one-off requests and the results are always top-notch. She has also helped guide our content strategy based on her expertise in content marketing, which has been a huge asset to our team.

  • Produced ROI Result needed someone who could grasp the complexities of our product, capture the subtlety of our differentiating value propositions, and convey them in the right voice for an exacting customer audience…. Resonance delivered, by crafting a multi-faceted online content marketing strategy that drove traffic and conversion, producing the ROI result we were looking for….

  • Increased our likes and interaction rates

    Working with Rachel was a delight. Not only does she communicate very well, but she provided valuable insight about our social media platforms and followers. We have much better engagement with our fans and followers, which increased our likes and interaction rates.


  • Professionalism and Sincere Desire to Help

    I just didn’t seem to be able to find the time or the right words to explain what I offer and how my company helps people accomplish their goals. Rachel was able to ask me some questions, do some research and capture my voice while writing my website copy exactly as I needed it to be written.  Now, the copy on my website is much more professional than what I would have created and having this task handled by Rachel and Resonance freed up my time to complete other tasks I am better suited to do.

    It was a joy to work with Rachel. Her professionalism and sincere desire to help was apparent from the first communication until the final delivery. I will definitely use Resonance again and highly recommend their services.

  • Added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks

    Rachel took the overwhelm and stress out of writing content for my marketing campaign! When I approached Rachel, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to focus on writing copy for a lengthy marketing campaign that included sales pages, solo emails, newsletters and social media updates. Well, let’s just say I’m glad I hired Rachel because I couldn’t have done it without her support and expertise. I loved how she used my voice and words to craft content that helped me reach and attract my ideal client. As a result of working with Rachel, I added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks, hundreds of new social media followers and exceeded my sales and list building goals! You know your marketing copy is working when you hear someone say, “I see you everywhere”. Thank you Rachel for helping me not only get seen by my ideal clients but get paid!

  • Social Media Ranking Better Than Ever!

    We are so happy to have hired Resonance for our social media needs. We spend most of our time serving our clients and studying our field so we can provide the highest quality possible. We no longer worry about our social media, as we have total confidence in the wonderful work Rachel and her team have accomplished.

    Our social media is active, promoted, and is ranking better than ever! People often comment about what they see on our Facebook page. Resonance has added a creative, and artistic twist to our social media that is appealing and captivating to our audience. This has allowed me more time to work with my team and clients, so I can focus on service towards the people that help our business grow.

    I know there will be wonderful content on Facebook, and that Rachel will answer to posts, comments and questions as soon as a comment arrives. I am often impressed at how quickly she responds! Thank you Resonance! I highly endorse Resonance and encourage companies who need social media strategies to work with Resonance! You won’t regret it! 

  • Event Sold Out Two Years In A Row!

    Rachel worked with me on creating a content marketing calendar and content for the Big Social Media Summit (Big SMS) three years in a row. She is very organized and knows just the right amount of posts on social, email newsletters and content to send.  Her content marketing efforts helping us sell out our event three years in a row!  I am expecting the same for October 2014.

    Rachel was hired to write content for our email newsletter and content for our social platforms. In addition, she had a budget to do advertising on social media. She participated in the event live and after the fact to assure buzz was created before, during and after the event. As a result, our event sold out.

    When I work with Rachel, I have total peace of mind.  I know that she is on target, on time, reliable and delivers over and above the results I expect.

    I trust Rachel totally with her ideas on strategy, marketing and the content used to not only promote our events, but also post on my behalf on social networks. I have been doing social media for 8 years, and I hire Resonance to post on some of my social sites as it saves me time, and keeps my social sites relevant and current. They always post great, engaging content that gets my social properties likes, comments and shares.


  • One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

    My company had little or no time to spend on social media. Our needs were to ensure a steady stream of posts across three platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) by harvesting and re-purposing content from our own site and news streams. So I contacted Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing.

    The result was two-fold. Not only did our ranks of followers grew steadily, the steady drip, drip, drip of content helped us train our personnel and direct their own individual social media efforts.

    Rachel and her team are extremely organized and open to discussion and new ideas. They deliver a rapid response to new opportunities — and an overall feeling of being on the same team. One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

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