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TODD SMITH: United outlines 10 things it will do to avoid crisis


United Airlines is taking steps to avoid another crisis – and make flying the airline better.

The airline said it is making 10 changes to prevent a repeat of what happened to David Dao, who was dragged from a flight because the carrier needed extra seats for commuting crew members. Video of the April 9 incident quickly went viral. Dr. Dao suffered a concussion and two missing teeth.

United acknowledged four failures that day.

First, it shouldn’t have called law enforcement when a security or safety issue didn’t exist.

Second, it failed when rebooking the crew on an already packed and boarded flight.

Third, it failed to lure passengers voluntarily with sufficient compensation. Its agents didn’t have the authority to offer more or find other ways to get passengers to their destination.

Fourth, United didn’t prepare its employees for situations like the one with Dr. Dao.

So the airline came up with 10 policy changes and initiatives to reduce bumping and improve customer service. Some have already been implemented, and others will be rolled out soon. Here’s what’s changing at United:

1. United won’t use law enforcement unless there’s a safety or security issue – It won’t call the cops simply to enforce its own policies.

2. Boarded passengers won’t be asked to give up their seats involuntarily unless there’s a safety or security issue.

3. United is increasing compensation up to $10,000 for voluntarily giving up your seat.

4. A “customer solutions team” is being created to assist gate agents to get fliers to their destinations. The team will also help crews find alternatives to displacing passengers.

5. Traveling crew members must be booked at least 60 minutes before departure.

6. United will add new annual training for its agents “that will equip them to handle the most difficult of situations.” This begins in August.

7. United will ask passengers during automated check-in or on its app if they’re interested in giving up their seat in exchange for compensation.

8. It is cutting back overbooking for last-of-the-day flights, like flight 3411 – or flights that historically had few passengers voluntarily give up seats.

9. Using a new app, flight attendants and gate agents can proactively dole out miles or other compensation “when a disservice occurs.”

10. The airline is cutting the red tape for lost bags. If a bag goes permanently missing, the airline is adopting a “no-questions-asked” policy. United will pay $1,500 for the bag and its contents.

Huffington Post rebrands as HuffPost

The Huffington Post of the post-Arianna era, helmed by former New York Times editor Lydia Polgreen, is rebranding itself by the commonly used nickname HuffPost. It’s also redesigning its site to fully embrace these punny splashes across social platforms and to better accommodate the habits and desires of its readership, which Polgreen is hoping to make more loyal and engaged.

The redesign process began before Polgreen came on board late last year; Arianna Huffington’s departure left an opening for the site to rethink how it wanted to present itself to readers.

Design director Alison Zack suggested introducing that splash image into everything. People have been consistently sharing images of the splashes on social anyway. Now, when readers share a big HuffPost story or come across one on search, they’ll get the quippy headline and image.

On some days, HuffPost gets as much as a quarter of its traffic directly from its homepage. The readers accessing HuffPost from its homepage, unsurprisingly, are the most engaged readers, clicking into six to seven pages per visit. But anecdotal feedback and focus groups suggested that some readers consistently only wanted to read stories from specific sections, and weren’t always getting to the sections they wanted easily enough. Users who watched video from the homepage tended to watch a lot of video in general, so the redesign moves up the video.

HuffPost is also switching to a simplified, still-green but Huffington-less logo (an outside agency helped design it). A slash through the middle is meant to evoke cutting through the noise, as well as the URL slash.

The mobile app is getting the new look as well, though the updates that roll out last week is only a preview of what’s to come.

Pinterest to Launch 1st U.S. Ad Campaign, 2nd International 

This summer, Pinterest is launching its first major advertising campaign in the U.S. It’s considering spending on billboards, websites, newspapers and magazines to get its message across.

Pinterest is advertising to add users as other, larger networks start to mimic parts of its product. Instagram, for example, recently added a feature that allows people to save other users’ pictures into collections that they can revisit later. Alphabet Inc.’s Google recently added shoppable photos in image searches.

Since the ad campaign is still in its planning stages, Pinterest wouldn’t say how much it intends to spend or whether it will include TV ads. The company is working with Janet Champ, a creative director known for Nike campaigns, and hopes to highlight users who went “from dreaming about their life to designing it,” according to a spokesperson.

Last year, the company did an ad campaign in London with TV and posters in public transit. This year, the effort is larger, in the U.S. as well as internationally.

Dropped Mic | Trump skips correspondents’ dinner, opts for rally

President Donald Trump passed up an opportunity to roast reporters at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, choosing instead to complain about the news media (and Democrats) at a rally in Pennsylvania.

During the event marking his first 100 days in office, President Trump said, “A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now.”

He also said that the “media deserves a very big, fat, failing grade,” reports Politico. Over in D.C., veteran journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein defended the media at the Trump-less dinner, with comedic relief from Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show.” The comedian poked fun at the administration and various news outfits, but then he got more serious and equated the president’s absence to not caring about free speech or appreciating that the First Amendment allows him to tweet, reports the Washington Post. Folks who chose not to watch coverage of what Minhaj called the “series finale” of the WHCD could catch Samantha Bee roast President Trump during her “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” Will Ferrell made a surprise appearance, filling the presidential void with his famous impression of President George W. Bush.

In a case of a double dropped Mics, both President Trump, and the roast-less correspondents’ dinner take the honors!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon. 


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