3 crisis communications lessons from Southwest’s intrepid pilot

Capt. Tammie Jo Shults kept her calm when she lost an engine and had to make an emergency landing. Here’s what PR pros can learn from her cool response.

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Communicators can learn a thing or two from airline pilots.

In addition to saving the lives of 148 Southwest Airlines passengers, Capt. Tammie Jo Shults—the former U.S. Navy fighter pilot who safely landed a Boeing 737 in Philadelphia after a mid-air explosion took out one of its engines—also gave a master class in crisis communications at 190 mph.

Here are three things PR pros can learn from this real-life Wonder Woman:

1. Be prepared.

No doubt Capt. Shults has nerves of steel, but she also had a plan.

Pilots create, practice and review emergency procedures so that when something does go wrong, muscle memory kicks in. It’s crucial for communicators to do the same—even those used to rapidly responding every day. Having a clear protocol in place when a crisis hits saves valuable time and allows practitioners to focus on the issue at hand.

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