3 PR takeaways from Southwest’s air scare

The discovery of cracks in one of its Boeing 737s proved frightening for passengers, but educational for public relations pros.

The airline made headlines with a midflight fright on Friday when a Boeing 737 made an emergency landing. Then on Sunday night, yet another Boeing jet in its fleet was diverted to Los Angeles, this time after an electrical burning smell began to fill the cabin.

Though no passengers were seriously hurt in either case, the situation prompted inspections of other Southwest jetliners, three of which were found to have subsurface cracks similar to those that forced Friday’s impromptu landing.

The sequence of events provides valuable lessons that might help PR professionals to deal with crises—or, better yet, to head them off. Here are three:

1. A little crack could lead to something worse. Don’t let small problems become big ones. If not properly addressed, one crack in a firm’s strategic planning could lead to disaster. Whether it’s a hairline fracture or an engine falling off, deal with it quickly and thoroughly, so it doesn’t end up grounding your entire fleet.

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