Len Gutman, Valley PR Blog author and founder of Open Door Communications, posted this today about the American auto maker CEOs’ use of private jets in route to Washington D.C. He notes that when asking for bailout from the government, arriving in style is a PR disaster.
“Where was their corporate communications counsel? Or perhaps they got counsel but didn’t care. I’ve been a corporate communications executive at three Fortune 100companies so I know how hard it can be to get heard in these situations, but surely someone with an APR or an ABC (or hell, even a PR student) could have seen this disaster coming and warned someone.”
Since Len also teaches PR at ASU, I’ll go ahead and let the “PR student” comment slide. 🙂 While Len makes a great point, however, my colleague (whose husband is a lawyer) and I were discussing that there may be legal agreements in their contracts prohibiting commercial flights for safety, among other business reasons.
The issue here is managing how the action is viewed by the public rather than the action itself. As Len notes, it’s often difficult to get the PR voice to senior-level management and change course (for example, persuading CEOs not to use private jets), but what we CAN do is be proactive. Recognize that this may be ill-perceived and communicate the necessary reason for private jets. Whether it be time efficiency (mobile office/meeting room), cost efficiency or contractual agreement, communicating this to the public can reduce any misunderstandings and ensure people don’t assume poor money management.