Tell it First and Tell it Fast.

By: Justin Hanes //

Tell it first. Tell it fast. Tell them what you’re going to do about it. Alaska Airlines did almost just that.

On Nov. 30, 2017, Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley executive, announced that a male passenger aboard an Alaska Airlines flight sexually harassed her. To make matters even worse, the flight attendants allegedly continued to dismiss the harassment.

She released a statement on Facebook (fitting, right?) that she sent to CEO Brad Tilden and  VP of People Andy Schneider stating “I am furious at that passenger…I am furious at myself for not causing more of a scene in the moment…but I am even more furious with Alaska Airlines for knowingly and willingly providing this man with a platform to harass women.” She ended her statement with the intention to share the message on social media, as well as further action.

Alaska Airlines’ communication department was faced with a sudden crisis. What did they do?

Zuckerberg’s statement could have broken Alaska’s brand in a society that is already prone to sexual misconduct. I imagine Bobbie Egan, media relations director for Alaska, remained calm and professional during this incident that could have resulted in a loss of passenger loyalty and brand degradation. Additionally, I’d argue that she worked with other Alaska PR professionals to craft the response that addressed what they’re doing to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. Specifically, they called Zuckerberg personally to discuss the incident.

They used multiple social platforms to communicate their message and crisis response. They shared what they were doing to protect this from happening in the future. Not only does this communicate with Zuckerberg, but it communicates with other Twitter, Facebook and blog users, too. Their tweet has more than 200 retweets and nearly 2,000 likes.


While Alaska didn’t tell the story first, they responded within an hour with a corrective-action and condolence response. Not only did this communicate the stance of Alaska, but it showed their publics that they were dedicated to the problem. They were transparent, ethical and aware of the issues. The critical thinking by the PR team and Andy Schnieder, vice-president of people, and CEO Brad Tilden allowed Alaska to stay afloat while the investigation continued.

Curious about my personal thoughts regarding the situation? Keep reading.

  1. I’m absolutely disgusted by the actions of said passenger, and I applaud Randi Zuckerberg for using her voice to call them out. However, this is NOT the first time sexual misconduct has happened on Alaska or any airline for that matter. Sadly, I’d argue that some form of sexual harassment happens on a regular basis. It’s unfortunate that unless someone is a public figure with a huge social media following like Zuckerberg, their voice will be most likely not be heard.
  2.  Alaska’s response was exactly what I expected. In fact, it was better than what most airlines would’ve been. It was fast, critical and encouraging to most loyal Alaska passengers. It’s encouraging to see great PR from a great company who cares deeply about their people.

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Header photo: Property of Justin Hanes

This Article Has 4 Comments
  1. Samantha Nadel says:


    I enjoyed this post because the topic of sexual misconduct is extremely relevant today, as numerous allegations of sexual abuse are now coming to the surface (think Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Larry Nassar, etc.). In regards to its link to the internet, it’s crazy to see the power of social media in making or breaking the reputation of a brand, public reaction via social media platforms can go viral in such a short period of time. I believe the time factor plays a huge role in the public’s perception of the brand. Specifically, the longer a company waits to respond to conflict, the more tarnished their reputation will become. Since Alaska Airlines “responded within an hour with a corrective-action and condolence response,” there are unlikely to be lasting negative associations with the brand.

  2. Marisa Biggins says:

    Justin great post and I too would have to agree with Samantha’s comments above. I for one, had no clue this is a reoccurring issue for Alaska Airlines or airlines in general. Is this in regards to sexual misconduct that passengers are experiencing, employees or both? I feel like I must be living under a rock to missed these stories. Nonetheless, good for the quick response and the transparency from Alaska Airlines but if this is major issue that is going under the radar for the average civilian then, has Alaska implemented a new protocol on handling these issues? Maybe there won’t be any lasting negative associations with the brand now, since they made the right PR move in response to Randi Zuckerberg but this could open the flood gate for others to speak up against Alaska or other airlines.

  3. Gabriel Ovetz says:

    Great post. It’s very intriguing to see how corporations are responding to sexual harassment, as they are becoming a disgusting occurrence in our society. Alaska Air did a great job of handling the situation in a timely manner, and hopefully that will set a precedence for other corporations to take a more hands-on approach to combating sexual harassment.

  4. Rachel Hanks says:

    This post does a good job exemplifying quick thinking and action on the part of a PR professional, especially given the wildfire nature of social media– this easily could have turned into a disaster if Alaska hadn’t acted quickly. Additionally, I think this example demonstrates how integral company values need to be. If a company truly values the safety and well-being of its customers, it will display that in every aspect of the company– from face-to-face to online communication.

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