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November 1, 2010
Flying Off the Record (Supposedly)
Oh dear, here's  a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines using flip language when she thinks it's safe, before PR brethren. It's never safe and should never be used, even thought. Southwest's crisis communications plan seems exemplary, but referring to the media as "dogs" before a PRSA chapter, or anywhere, is wrong, period.

Glibness kills, loose lips sink ships, use any bromide you want. But don't go before a professional society, or anyone else for that matter, and say, "If you don't feed the dogs quickly, they'll start to rummage through the garbage."

That's what Brandy King, senior communications manager for Southwest Airlines, did recently before the Public Relations Society of America's Richmond Chapter, and it was wrong. Even to think the odious thought was PR malpractice, and here it is on the Web.

It's almost as bad for someone at Richmond PRSA to think the remark makes a great lead on the chapter's minutes as for an airline spokesperson to utter it in the first place.

The rest of Brandy's talk, as summarized in Cynthia's Communique, a communications blog maintained by Cynthia Price, president of the National Federation of Press Women, apparently was about the elements of Southwest's crisis communication plan, which sounds great, except possibly for its underlying view of the media. What, at any rate, is a media person to think who stumbles upon Southwest's PR manager using a "rummaging" metaphor she evidently thought was clever but betrayed disdain for her communication customers?

No, no, never. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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