Blattel Communications President Traci Stuart is quoted in the Law360 article titled, “New United Video Suits Show Stubborn Power Of Viral Media,” (subscription required). The piece discusses a now ex-Chicago Aviation Police officer’s suit against United Airlines, the City of Chicago and Chicago’s Aviation Commissioner for unfair termination in the aftermath of a widely-reported 2017 incident where passenger David Dao was roughly pulled off a United flight against his will and sustained numerous injuries. Dao’s ejection from the plane was captured on video by nearby passengers and subsequently went viral. (Stuart and Blattel Communications Chief Strategist Peter Shaplen previously authored a Law360 column on PR lessons learned by the Dao incident.) The Dao video’s reemergence into public consciousness comes as Starbucks recently faced public scrutiny after two black men, who were waiting for a friend at one of the chain’s coffee shops, were asked to leave and later arrested by police officers called by a manager.
Stuart noted that United may have been better able to manage and diffuse the public backlash to the Dao video had it adopted Starbucks’ rapid, conciliatory and responsive approach. She pointed out that United’s initial, underwhelming response to the Dao video, essentially “’Hey, we’ll investigate this and get back to you,” increased public displeasure. Stuart adds that all businesses are at risk of negative viral moments, “The risk of that trend and that consciousness should be a concern for every company.”
Having detailed crisis plans in place and having stakeholders on board is critical and can help protect a company from litigation, Stuart said. She added that the rapid apology from Starbucks’ CEO after the arrest of the two black patrons, and subsequent plans for company-wide racial bias training is a stark contrast to what United did. “The litigation roots to [the Starbucks’ incident] tree (are) getting cut off and not getting quite as much fertilizer, if you will.”
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