Tag Archive: Southwest Airlines


“The president of the United States tweeting negative things about your brand (e.g., ESPN) in an environment where you’re already at risk and you’re already on a downward trend, it’s just not what you want to see happening.” – Stephen Beck, cable TV consultant

“ESPN is about sports … not a political organization.” – ESPN President John Skipper

ESPN proclaims itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

If that is true then why are so many labeling the troubled network: MSESPN?

Why is an ESPN anchor (e.g., Jamele Hill) taking to Twitter to call the president of the United States as a “White Supremacist” and a “Bigot”? Sounds like politics, not sports.

With the likes of Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher filling up TV screens at other networks, does the avid sports fan tune into ESPN for affirmational political commentary?

Do you think more than a few of ESPN’s remaining viewers may not necessarily agree? More to the point, don’t they just want to watch their game of choice, and check out the highlights on “Sports Center”?

Predictably, Trump replied via his own customary tweet, reminding the world that ESPN is losing subscribers in a fast-and-furious way (e.g., 100 million in 2011 to 87 million now).

Time to sell the stock, Disney shares in particular?

Almost DailyBrett needs to ask a basic question: Why is the so-called “Worldwide Leader in Sports” becoming embroiled in politics when the nation is the most divided since the days of the Civil War?

Does the Bristol, Ct., network appreciate that contrary opinions may actually exist west of the Hudson? See 2016 Electoral College map for details.

Some have questioned why the network presented the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner, provided sympathetic coverage of Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem, moved Asian announcer Robert Lee out of the broadcast booth, fired conservative two-time World Series winner Curt Schilling, while not terminating Jamele Hill for her presidential broadsides?.

This commentary is not to suggest that ESPN should not cover provocative sports issues (e.g., O.J. Simpson parole hearing), but one cannot fathom the arbitrary direct shots by a sports network anchor at the commander-in-chief.

Analysts have stated that ESPN’s well-documented troubles are a product of market factors including widespread chord-cutting and the growing acceptance of streaming video. Okay. Then why potentially exacerbate the loss of 13 million viewers by angering millions of viewers, who may just happen to be conservative?

There is a reason why Fox News is the consistent ratings leader in cable news, easily beating MSNBC and CNN in the Nielsen Ratings. Why tick off huge swaths of the public?

“Ballmer and Butthead”

Almost DailyBrett earlier questioned Sun Microsystems founder and chief Scott McNealy’s obsession with Microsoft, who he saw as technology’s evil empire.

Thinking he was so friggin’ clever, McNealy drew laughter when he labeled Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates as “Ballmer and Butthead.”

He also raised eyebrows for making these brash comments while his failing company harbored a $3 per share price. Alas after 28 years, Sun Microsystems went into oblivion having been absorbed by Oracle in 2010.

The connection with ESPN is that a company needs to appreciate its raison d’ etre. What are a corporation’s bread and butter? What is a firm’s brand? What are the meanings of the logo, signage, colors, fonts and style?

Southwest Airlines is “The Low-Fare Airline”; Nike is “Just Do It”; Apple is mainly the iPhone as reaffirmed last week. Sun Microsystems was Java script and servers, but the brand sadly degenerated into becoming synonymous with McNealy’s sophomoric punch lines.

ESPN is the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Does it want to be the worldwide leader in left-of-center sports commentary? If so, the network will become a niche player instead of the market-share leader in sports programming.

The adults at Fox Sports will then take over that leadership position, leaving MSESPN to cater to its chosen core of left-of-center “sports” fans.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/15/media/trump-espn/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/15/politics/jemele-hill-espn/

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/15/trump-kicks-espn-where-it-hurts-242785

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/09/tech-ceos-talking-shit-about-their-rivals/mcnealy-shots-on-gates-and-ballmer

https://www.recode.net/2016/5/4/11634208/scott-mcnealy-is-stepping-down-from-the-ceo-job-you-didnt-know-he-had

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/%E2%80%9Cballmer-and-butthead%E2%80%9D/

http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/09/12/espn-jemele-hill-calls-donald-trump-white-supremacist-kid-rock-pandering-racists

 

 

 

“We don’t have a strategy yet.” – President Barack Obama asked about a potential U.S. response to the radical ISIS of Iraq and Syria

“We are THE low-fare airline.” — Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Southwest Airlines

kelleher

We hear the word all the time.

It is as ubiquitous as “sustainable,” “solutions” and “selfies.”

Here comes another common S-word: “strategy.”

What is this creature?

According to the Business Dictionary, strategy is “1.) A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem or …

2.) The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use. The term is derived from the Greek word strategia for generalship or leading an army.”

As the creator of an upper-division university course, Strategic Business/Financial Communications (my M.A. project), sometimes one can still ask if you appreciate the meaning of the word, strategy. We use it all the time, but do we really appreciate its context?

Does Management Know What It Is Doing?

Rank-and-file workers around the world spend portions of their days chatting around the proverbial cooler or more likely firing text messages or emails across cyberspace asking each other whether the boss or bosses really know what she/he/they know what they are doing?

watercooler

The real question is: Do we have a strategy? And if so, what is our strategy?

Think of the interrogative this way: Any organization has only so much money, so much time, so much manpower/womanpower and so much talent and knowhow. These resources are finite. How will they be most effectively utilized?

The decision is just as much what an organization is going to do with its resources, as it is what it will not do with its limited attributes.

“We’re not serving any damn chicken salad”

The New York Times bestseller Made to Stick, co-authored by Chip and Dan Heath, recounts the story of Tracy, the marketing whiz at Southwest Airlines, suggesting to CEO Herb Kelleher that chicken Caesar salad would be popular with the airline’s customers. The idea went absolutely nowhere because it did not coincide with Southwest’s THE low-fare airline strategy.

madetostick

“Core messages help people avoid bad choices by reminding them what is important,” Chip and Dan Heath wrote in Made to Stick. “In Herb Kelleher’s parable, for instance, someone had to choose between chicken salad and no chicken salad – and the message ‘THE low-fare airline’ led her to abandon the chicken salad.”

Think of what Southwest (NYSE: LUV) does:

The airline offers soft drinks, pretzels and peanuts (and adult beverages paid by credit cards).

Southwest flies point-to-point primarily in the continental U.S., eschewing the annoying jammed “spoke” airports (e.g., Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta) that plague the legacy carriers and their passengers. Southwest only flies Boeing 737-400s.

There are no assigned seats, festival seating for all.

And the flight attendants seem to be having a great time, and really want the passengers to “enjoy” rather than endure their flight.

What does Southwest NOT do:

There is no crummy airline food to purchase.

There are no spoke systems.

Southwest does not purchase multiple models of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. There is one model of aircraft to service.

There are no assigned seats, but a devilishly effective way of boarding it’s A,B and C boarding groups. Southwest makes money when its planes are in the air, not on the ground. The strategy is to get satisfied passengers off the plane, quickly loading another happy group of patrons and sending the plane back into the air heading off to the next destination.

As a public relations, marketing, advertising professional, you want to work for an organization that knows what it wants to be when it grows up. When dealing with external (e.g., conventional and social media, industry and financial analysts, governmental regulators, investors, partners, suppliers, distributors general public) and internal stakeholders (e.g., all-important employees), you want to be sure of your “story.”

If your organization knows what it wants to do, and what it does not want to do (and has the discipline to stay within the confines of its resources), your job is just that much easier.

FedEx will get your package to its intended destination positively, absolutely overnight.

Tesla pours millions into R&D and cap-ex for ion batteries for electric cars at acceptable price points with sufficient range.

Salesforce.com is a pioneer in SaaS or software as a service, allowing customers to pick-and-choose, and then plug-and-play business software from the cloud.

Google is the number search engine in the world, and makes the Android operating system for mobile devices.

Amazon is the number one digital retailer on the planet, and makes the Kindle reader.

The examples are too numerous to count, but these are companies know how to answer the question: “How do you make money?” The answer is a clear strategy.

The vast majority of investors will weigh buying shares in these companies because they know these companies raison d’etre. There is no FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) when it comes to Southwest, FedEx, Tesla, Salesforce, Google, Amazon and many others.

obamastrategy

Alas, a few folks in Washington D.C. are not the only ones without a strategy… yet. And every organization without a strategy – what to do and not what to do — has a big league public relations/branding/marketing dilemma.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/08/28/obama-on-increased-action-against-islamic-state-we-dont-have-a-strategy-yet/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Kelleher

http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/strategy.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_to_Stick

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/how-does-a-company-make-money-2/

 

 

 

 

Life used to be so easy.

There was Paid Media = Advertising.

There was Earned Media = Public Relations.

And there were the legacy media gatekeepers: Newspapers, Radio and Television.

That’s how the world appeared to communications pros way back in the 1980s.

One employed earned media and/or paid media to deal with or get past the analog media deciders to reach target audiences.

There was B2B. And B2C. And even B2G.

Simple?  Oh, so simple.

As we all know, 20th Century Web 1.0 (websites) and 21st Century Web 2.0 (convergence of social, mobile and cloud) have thrown everything into a tizzy. And some are even talking about Web 3.0 or semantic web. We will leave that for another installment of Almost DailyBrett.

weberas

And now we can add Owned Media to the mix as well.

The neighborhood property values will never be the same.

What the heck is “Owned” Media?

One can spend money to place ads into legacy and/or digital native media: Paid Media.

Or one can choreograph public relations campaigns, hopefully garnering always in-demand third-party validation by means of effective interaction with analog and digital gatekeepers wherever they may be: Earned Media.

(Some used to call this category “Free” media. Practitioners know through painful experience there is absolutely nothing “free” when it comes to media relations).

As the influence of legacy media gatekeepers subsides and the flack-to-media ratio (presently 3.6-to-1) grows more lopsided, more-and-more public relations pros, marketeers and investor relations practitioners are embracing Owned media. These are media channels directly (for the most part) under the control of corporations, governmental agencies, non-profits, NGOs or anyone with a product to sell, a candidate to elect or an idea to spread.

threemedia

Before Almost DailyBrett goes any further, at least partial credit needs to be directed to Advertising & IMC: Principles & Practice, 10th edition by Moriarty, Mitchell and Wells for its role in defining this growing-in-importance owned media category. “Owned media: Media channels controlled by the organization and that are used to carry branded content.”

And just like advertising and public relations, owned media is experiencing the full impact of digital communications revolution, and maybe even more than its siblings, paid and earned media.

Natural Reaction to Growing Paid Media and Earned Media Issues?

Advertising pros are confronted with the dilemma associated with just too much clutter, legacy media declining in importance and influence, and digital native media still undergoing growing pains.

PR, marketing and investor relations practitioners are dealing with the remaining legacy media reporters, editors, correspondents and analysts, who are wondering just how much longer their jobs are going to last. In any event, they are overwhelmed with PR folks pitching them self-serving story ideas.

The digital news aggregators are starting to make a mark for themselves as the Huffington Post drew approximately 85 million worldwide unique monthly desktop visitors this past March, up from about 65 million the previous March. BuzzFeed virtually doubled its online readership from nearly 21 million in March 2013 to 45 million two months ago. Business Insider recorded a gain of 15 million to 17 million in the same time period.

Some of these news aggregators will succeed, famously capitalizing on their first-mover advantage. Others will not. For PR types, they present a new avenue to gain the vaunted third-party acceptance.

Has “disruptive” digital  communications technologies (e.g., Web 1.0 and Web 2.0) changed the rules of the game for paid and earned media pros? Absolutely, but maybe not as much as for owned media. When one contemplates owned media, there is a seemingly unending string of digital ones-and zeroes.

Examples of Owned Media Channels

So what are these owned media news channels — in many cases digital self-publishing – that are allowing us to bypass the legacy and digital native gatekeepers and giving pause to making more advertising expenditures? Here are some examples:

● The organizational website. Websites seem so yesterday and yet they are the digital point-of-entry to the company, non-profit, governmental, agency and political brands. They reflect the basic messages, mission statements, raison d’etre, the look-and-feel of the brand through the careful use of art, fonts, navigation and style. And now they increasingly feature audio and video, and they invite two-way symmetrical communications.

● The 100-million digital essayists (including this one) who compose blogs on a daily basis. Obviously some are more important than others. Companies over the years have become less reticent to the idea of their employees blogging, and with proper controls they are assisting in the promotion of the brand.

blog

● The corporate intranet is now providing for true two-way symmetrical communication between management and rank-and-file employees. For example, Southwest Airlines debuted in 2010 SWALife, a truly interactive portal allowing employees to directly engage in a companywide conversation.

● Social media sites including Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and hashtags, and LinkedIn accounts are at least being regularly monitored (or they should be) and being hosted to create a “buzz” as it applies to the organization.

● YouTube videos and Flickr photo pages are spreading the corporate brand, sometimes on a viral basis, which can be accessed with a few clicks on the mobile device or remaining laptops.

Yep, we have moved from B2B, B2G, B2C to B2C2C with brands rising and falling via word of mouth…the best advertising of all. And guiding these conversations or at least influencing them are organizational owned media.

Owned media is just another example of how our world has changed, digitally and permanently. And it may be the best response to digital communications angst.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21602714-new-york-times-ponders-bold-changes-needed-digital-age-read-it-and-leap

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web

http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/product/Advertising-IMC-Principles-and-Practice/9780133506884.page

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/luving-two-way-employee-comms/

 

 

It would be hard to make this up.

Our Club Universe American tour guide to the “Evil Empire” in 1981 was named … Joseph McCarthy.

Over a round of adult beverages in the “office” (e.g., hotel bar), he assigned an unofficial tag line for the state-run Aeroflot, essentially public transportation in the sky: “The Longer the Flight, The Longer the Delay.”

If your flight was about two hours from Moscow to then-Leningrad; now-St. Petersburg, the delay was about two hours. If you were flying eight hours from Moscow to Novosibirsk…Lenin help you.

aeroflot

The in-flight cuisine was Tatiana delivering plastic cups of mineral water. That’s all, folks.

With Aeroflot at the time, you knew what to expect. Yes, there was a consistency of product.

You were back in the USSR; You don’t know how lucky you are boy…

The Soviet Union has now gone into the history books, even though Russia with all of its backwardness and sadness (even with the temporary joy of the Sochi Olympics), still exists.

What also exists are customer expectations and consistency of product. And in most cases that is a “Good Thing” as Martha would say.

Take Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) for example.  The line sometimes goes back to the door. The prices are high. Knowing the author of Almost DailyBrett and $3.70 will result in a Grande mocha with no whip. And yet so many will shell out for their daily fix. The Grande mocha tastes the same in Dublin, Ireland as it does in Ellensburg, Washington.

Some may scoff at McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD), but the company has nailed fast food. You know what you are getting and there is a consistency of product. Yes, a Big Mac tastes the same in Tokyo as it does in Brussels as it does in Hood River, Oregon.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has essentially pioneered digital retailing. The company even acquired online shoe store, Zappos, which built its reputation on under-promising and over-delivering (shoes arrive before their promised delivery date), literally providing customers with the consummate “wow” experience.

Amazon fulfillment center

Digital search-engine leader Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has become a verb, an ultimate sign of success as in “Google this; Google that.”

For flyers of Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), you know what you are getting and not getting. Plan on joking flight attendants, Boeing 737-700s that are habitually on time, peanuts and/or pretzels and a soft drink. Don’t plan on assigned seats or in-flight cuisine. There is a consistency of product, and that speaks to the company’s brand as the nation’s leading low-cost carrier. Reportedly based on percentages of applicants vs. acceptances, the percentages are more in favor of being admitted to Harvard than landing a job at Southwest.

The point is these firms have learned the lessons from failing companies (or companies that should be put out of their misery), including J.C. Penney, Braniff, and Circuit City.

What is the usual customer expectation driving into the parking lot of any state’s Department of Motor Vehicles? There are three absolutes in life: Death, Taxes and DMV.

As you emerge from the car, you can sense your pulse quickening and your blood-pressure rising. Your dog-eared copy of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is ready at your side. Will Napoleon’s Grand Armee drive to Moscow and beat a snowy retreat to France before your number is called at DMV?

dmv

Everyone, staring at the linoleum floors, sitting in the plastic chairs, and waiting for the cheerless bureaucrats, has the same pained look on their collective faces. Are your papers in Ordnung? If your papers are nicht in Ordnung, you will be sentenced to the gulag…another trip to DMV.

Yes, your expectations are being fulfilled, and (alas) there is a consistency of product.

Even though DMV operates in a monopoly position, similar to nationalized industries in the former Soviet Union, would anyone in their right mind invest in this stock: (NYSE: DMV)?

Keep in mind, DMV does not have a corner on the market when it comes to a desultory customer service experience. There is always (drum roll), the United States Postal Service.

How about staking a portion of your life’s savings in (NASDAQ: USPS)?

The USPS reached an all-time peak of volume served in 2006. It has been all downhill ever since. In 2013, the USPS lost $5 billion on top-line revenue of $66 billion. Not only is the USPS underperforming vis-and-vis its private sector competition, Fed-Ex and UPS, but the digital writing is on the wall as the Internet is providing even more reasons (e.g., online bill paying) to avoid costly snail-mail.

postoffice

This reality is evidenced in those selected to provide “customer service” at USPS stores (e.g., post offices). If there is the potential of staffing four registers, the USPS will offer two joyless staffers even though the customer line is stretching out the door.

Yes, there are customers standing in long lines at many Starbucks, but they have a happy ending in the offing in the form of a latte, cappuccino or mocha. At the USPS, joy comes with reaching the front of the line, shipping your package, buying snail-mail stamps and then mercifully…leaving.

To many, the word “corporate” has become a dirty word. And you can see the roots of the negativity, multi-million executive “golden” parachutes, Bernie Madoff Ponzi schemes, Walmarts driving smaller competitors out of business etc. etc. etc.

Having acknowledged the obvious, there is a flip side to the word, “corporate.” The other side of the story revolves around great products, literally millions of jobs, and bursts of innovation. Do we think of Starbucks or the DMV (or even Amtrak) when it comes to a superb product and a super customer experience? When it comes to innovation, would we bet our future on Amazon’s ability to move products or the USPS?

Many are wary of the prospect of DMV-style “service” when it comes to services provided by government, whether it be auto registration, mail delivery or maybe even health care.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroflot

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zappos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Madoff

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_and_Peace

Damn the Teleprompters!

Planes sometimes land at the wrong airport.

When we were kids we practiced huddling under our desks, if heaven forbid something really unpleasant was happening.

There is a reason every team has a backup quarterback.

And every good organization should have a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C.

Anybody at Samsung ever heard of Murphy’s Law?

baystage1

What can go wrong, will go wrong.

Caca happens from time-to-time. Be prepared to deal with it.

Think of it this way: Prevention is as much a component of effective crisis communications as responding to an actual debacle.

Typing in the name, “Michael Bay” and “CES” into the Google search engine and the result is 21.7 million web mentions devoted to the producer’s viral walkout of the biggest gizmo trade show on the planet, The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, attended by 140,000 techies.

This public relations train wreck has become a metaphor for Samsung’s underwhelming recent financial performance. That is the conclusion of the stately Economist.

Comedian Tina Fey even made fun at Michael Bay and by extension, Samsung, at the Golden Globes.

Let’s face it, life is not perfect. Sometimes airplanes filled with passengers land at the wrong airport. Southwest Airlines is practicing crisis response today.

And to many, that is their definition of crisis communications being cool under fire and following the mantra: Tell the Truth, Tell it All, Tell it Fast. Move On. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was practicing just that last week. Hopefully, the airline can take steps to ensure that its Boeing 737s always land at their intended destinations and move on.

The point here is that crisis communications is not just an after-the-fact exercise. Good crisis management is to take steps to ensure that what should be a victory does not turn out to be a viral defeat in our digital age.

Repeatedly watching the video of Michael Bay, one is immediately struck by his nervousness. The Transformers director/producer is clearly a guy, who likes to call the shots, to be in total control. He wants to be behind the camera, not in front of the lens.

baystage2

At CES, his performance right from the start was akin to someone walking on a tightrope. He clearly did not want to be there. If that was the case, why was he there? Yes, he fit into the marketing theme for Samsung’s new 105-inch curved ultra-high-definition television. (Personally, I am holding out for the 105-foot curved ultra-high-definition TV).  He may have been paid handsomely for his services.

Was it worth it, Samsung?

Bay was exhibiting all the signs of Glossophobia, combining the Greek words for “tongue” and “dread,” or fear of public speaking. Did Samsung put Bay through presentation training? And if not; why not? And if so, did the company practice what happens if the teleprompter goes down?

Let’s ask another question here: Why a teleprompter? It makes sense when POTUS delivers the nearly one-hour (or more) long State of the Union address. Why does one need a teleprompter to read to an audience? Why not engage in a conversation?

Some disdain PowerPoint or Prezi. Nonetheless Steve Jobs was a master of the format. Wearing his signature black turtleneck, jeans and tennis shoes and strapping on the lavaliere microphone, he confidently used each graphic as a prompt. He was obviously comfortable with the Apple message, after all he pretty much invented the technology (e.g., Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad etc.). The Macworld audiences fed off of his energy. All was good at Apple’s marketing department.

jobskeynote

Having checked out more than a few trade shows and investor conferences, the audience is ultimately looking for and expecting information about a company’s products and how they fit into the corporate business strategy.

Does Michael Bay know any of these facts when it comes to Samsung? Or did Samsung just want him to lend his name and cool reputation and mindlessly read his company produced lines and depart stage left? Well, Bay departed stage left but not in the way that Samsung wanted.

Another question that comes to mind revolves around co-presenting Samsung exec John Stinziano, who had the opportunity to reassure Michael Bay and save the day. He made a feeble attempt to make it all better but in the end just punted the presentation.

Couldn’t Stinziano pick up the ball and make the presentation about the 105-inch curved  TV? In football parlance, the term is next guy up. In this case, the star attraction just left the building. This was no time for the deer in the headlights look.

To use even another metaphor, The Show Must Go On.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4rMy1iA268

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-michael-bay-ces-slips-up-slinks-out-of-samsung-event-20140106,0,2153575.story#axzz2qIb9AJLg

http://www.today.com/tech/michael-bay-flames-out-stage-during-samsung-presentation-ces-2D11869413

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/12/tina-fey-mocks-michael-bays-ces-bomb-at-the-golden-globes/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murphy%27s_law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Bay

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21593488-south-korean-giant-has-lousy-start-new-year-fluffed-lines

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101331658

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Electronics_Show

“You control the debt; you control everything. You find this upsetting, yes? But this is the very essence of the banking industry, to make us all, whether we be nations or individuals, slaves to debt.” – Actor Luca Giorgio Barbareschi as arms producer, Umberto Calvini, in The International.

luca

We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.” – President Barack Obama on Good Morning America.

Guess the first quote in particular explains why Southwest Airlines sends me a sustainable Visa credit card application every week. And I thought Southwest just wanted to fly me to different places on the map.

It’s an airline, not a bank…Right? And yet, the “other” income line on Southwest’s annual income statement rose from $490 million in 2010 to $765 million in 2011 and to $835 million in 2012. Is there any doubt that credit card debt payments are included in LUV’s “other” income?

Can you say, “ka-ching?”

For a while it was Victoria Secret catalogues that were relentless. All they wanted was for me to admire the eye candy photography, and then to spend money for skimpy delightful things here and spend more money for skimpier delightful things there.

Southwest Airlines is using the prospect of two “free” tickets to entice a longer (month-to-month) commitment. They want servitude at 18 percent or higher interest. My Banana Republic card charges 24 percent interest, if I make the unfortunate decision to run a balance.

It would be easy to dismiss The International as just a 2009 film, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, which was either loved or panned by the critics. Looking deeper, the movie is based upon the Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal (e.g., money laundering/financial crimes) of the 1980s. The now-defunct $20 billion bank with 30,000 employees was chartered in Luxembourg before it was shut down by regulators.

BCCI

The sinister bank in the movie is called The International Bank of Business and Credit…surprise, surprise…also based in Luxembourg. This is no coincidence.

One must wonder whether then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger actually knew what he was doing when he made his historic secret trip to the People’s Republic of China in 1971. Soon thereafter. his boss President Richard Milhous Nixon, was toasting Chairman Mao, relaxing tensions between American democracy and Chinese communism just a smidge.

Little did anyone know that this trip led to the unthinkable: Marxist China would become the credit card bank for the majority of America’s record $17.4 trillion debt (and counting). And yet this debt, which equates to more than 100 percent of the nation’s GDP,  is deemed “sustainable” by the leader of the free world.

As the ad by Citizens Against Government Waste suggests will our sons and daughters be working for China to repay the debt. Will China control everything? Will we as a nation become slaves to the debt? Have we already crossed this threshold?

Recently, CNBC reported based upon figures from the U.S. Census that debt-carrying U.S. households had “dropped” from 74 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2011 with a median debt load of $70,000. Does that mean that we should be popping champagne corks because Americans holding credit card debt “decreased” from 51-38 percent in those same years. For seniors, the average debt is $26,000.

Shouldn’t our seasoned citizens be safe and secure in their Golden Years?

If a debt plane slammed into a New York skyscraper or torpedoed a battleship in Hawaiian waters, we would certainly rally as a nation. The issue is that debt accumulation is stealth and silent. The sun comes up the next day. The birds chirp away. The bees buzz. Life goes on to the tune of nearly $1 trillion of new debt each year, let alone the mounting debt loads for states, municipalities, homeowners and credit card holders.

debtclock

Why should we worry?

The banks are happy. States (e.g., China) that serve as banks are happy. And we are mostly happy too. After all our slavery to debt is “manageable.”

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100582392

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_International_%282009_film%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_Credit_and_Commerce_International

http://www.quotefully.com/movie/The+International/Umberto+Calvini

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/03/president-obama-there-is-no-debt-crisis/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LUumD0MwL8

Ever make the fatal mistake of forgetting to bring along reading material, a laptop or an iPod on a plane trip…and all you are left with is a cup of ice, a bag of pretzels and the airline’s in-flight magazine?

Or maybe you have grown weary of negotiating Xcel spread sheets, reviewing PowerPoint presentations or combing through national and/or local newspapers and then you look and there it is, right beside the throw-up bag: the very same in-flight magazine.

And if you have seen one, you pretty much have seen them all (okay, the international carriers provide meatier versions and they focus on the local culture…but they still are at their core, in-flight magazines).

Picking up the July edition of Southwest Airline’s “Spirit” magazine http://www.spiritmag.com/, I started thumbing through the predictable boilerplate CEO message in both Ingles y Espanol, the chosen destination travel guide (this time to always riveting Kansas City), the airline’s flight system map (usually the best part of the magazine) and then I came upon the story about: Todd Painter, Southwest Airline’s manager of Online Communications based in Dallas http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-Painter/1477287519.

Was Southwest actually extending some LUV to one of its PR people for the benefit of its paying customers? To top it off, Southwest was even discussing employee communications and how to use corporate intranets to foster two-way communications between the company’s nearly 35,000 employees and the corporate brass.

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What a totally unexpected and pleasant surprise, even for an in-flight magazine.

Todd leads the Southwest’s corporate intranet site, “SWALife,” and has directed its transition into a multi-media, two-way communications tool.

“On a communications front, it is an exciting time for Southwest Airlines, as our employees now have the ability to join the online conversation,” Painter said. “For years, SWALife has been an invaluable information resource for our employees, but the site only offered one-way communication, and employees had no way to give feedback on what they were reading. With the launch of SWALife Interactive and its employee blog, our employees have a voice.”

Left unsaid in the article was a recounting of the myriad of obligatory meetings with Corporate Finance, Legal and Investor Relations (to name just three) about giving employees this type of freedom in the setting of a publicly traded company (NYSE: LUV) http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/luv. The most predictable and conservative responses from these always “concerned” internal audiences is the two-letter word that starts with the letter, “n.”

The worst approach that a corporate and/or employee communications manager could ever make with these internal audiences is to state that intranets are only for the company’s employees and therefore there is no danger of improper communication. This assertion defies reality because it only takes one click on the “forward” button and a story or an item is outside the company’s fire walls.

Nonetheless, Corporate PR or a designated Employee Communications Department should be able to prevail in this argument. Two-way communications (e.g. conversational marketing) are now a digital fact of life. In fact, colleague-to-colleague interactions are regarded as the most trusted of all communications. Besides, a publicly traded company’s employees should understand what is permissible (no selective disclosures of specific quarterly or yearly performance expectations, no “material information, no proprietary trade secrets). Aren’t we all big girls and boys?

By evidence of Todd’s story in “Spirit” magazine (which obviously had to be approved by some corporate legal eagle), Southwest now has an interactive employee intranet site. And yes, the company still trades every day on the New York Stock Exchange under the watchful eyes of the SEC. Public relations pros can prevail in these internal debates, and everyone is a winner including  blogging employees and hopefully the overall morale of everyone at the company as well.

Almost DailyBrett note: Todd’s successful fight against autoimmune liver disease, leading to a liver transplant in 2003 is awe-inspiring. And so is his championing of registered donor programs including the good folks at http://www.donatelife.net/

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