The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Southwest Airlines takes advantage of social media

The SMU Public Relations Student Society of America chapter  hosted a Southwest Airlines executive to discuss how major airlines prepare for and respond to crises in the age of social media on April 20.

PRSSA vice president Allie Owens introduced Linda Rutherford, vice president of communications and strategic outreach.

Rutherford’s   lecture was titled “Nuts About Online Communication.”

Rutherford discussed the trials, successes and tribulations experienced by Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic airline carrier.

With 16 million visitors to the company’s website in June, 7.2 CNS online subscribers, more than one million followers on Twitter and more than 770,000 super fans on Facebook, the company has shown considerable growth in the realm of social media.

“It’s funny when someone says, ‘Remember in the old days?’ and by that they mean four weeks ago!” Rutherford said. “It just shows how fast the media has changed. Information moves at lightning speed now.”

Southwest Airlines uses social media not only to gain more publicity, but also to showcase the company’s culture and provide an alternative medium for crisis management.

CCPA major Rebecca Wolfe said she liked that Rutherford identified examples of disastrous events and clarified what crisis management entails in relation to these events.

In spite of this, Wolfe said she was not fully satisfied with the lecture.

“I still felt that it was slightly lacking, and wished that she had gone more in-depth about crisis management and not focused so much on Southwest’s involvement in social media,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe suggested that Rutherford could have discussed more situations in which crisis management failed, rather than solely presenting examples of its success.

Rutherford said that the most important question that the company constantly asks itself is, “How do we engage our customers of tomorrow?”

Southwest attempts to engage its customers by following social media “mantras” on a daily basis, said Rutherford.

They can’t be afraid to join the conversation, to make it personal and they have to live and breathe social media.

Rutherford emphasized that crisis management specifically involves the need to act fast.
“Speed is the greatest lesson we’ve learned,” she said.

When a member of the audience asked Rutherford whether students should use social media in applying for jobs, she said the young generation needs to “be responsible. It’s all about behaving responsibly.”

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