Late last night I caught the release of the last of the three songs from Dave Carroll about United Airlines baggage handlers breaking his guitar through negligence. After a year of fighting with United Airlines customer service, and them refusing to take responsibility, Dave Carroll swore he would write three songs/videos, put them on YouTube, and strive for a million views to shame United Airlines.
This is the Modern Internet Success Meme: an underdog of some sort is wronged by a large corporate entity and if done carefully, spins it into public fame. I don't mean fame among Internet people, but real "Today Show" caliber fame.
The options for the protagonist in these situations are clear:
- Apologize immediately to defuse it (aka Motrin and Circuit City); or
- Hope you can paint the victim in a negative light; or
- Tough it out.
Sometimes these choices are made for you. In the case of United Airlines, Carroll's year spent dealing with customer service eliminated option #1 for United Airlines, and that plus his innate Canadian niceness (and some savvy PR sense) kept #2 out of United's reach as well.
The best advice I have on this is for PR people to become friendly with their customer service teams. The escalation path nowadays for support problems is not to the head of support, but to the VP of Communication via the Internet. Customer Service departments should be reporting to Communications, and Communications should be managing them.
For Carroll's part, this is the biggest break he'll ever have. He's adopted this broken guitar image as his logo. If you peruse his website you'll see he's for hire to do corporate events and custom write songs as a customer support motivational speaker. In addition Carroll has tons of fan mail with customer service horror stories that could provide him a lifetime of material.
If I were managing his career (though he clearly doesn't need much help), I would suggest he take one or two, egregious stories out of his mailbag and write songs about them and do promotional videos to go with each new album release. He can write 10 new songs that fit his personal musical muse, and 1 or 2 that function as publicity vehicles for the album. His reach will continue to be tremendous.