Brilliant: United Appoints Former White House Press Secretary As Chief Communications Officer

Filed Under: Media, United

No, I’m sorry to say it’s not Sean Spicer (though I feel like he dealt with enough crisis in his short tenure that he might be qualified). 😉

United Airlines announced today that they’re appointing Josh Earnest as Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for the airline. Earnest spent almost his entire career in the government, and worked in the Obama White House for eight years, first as Deputy Press Secretary, and then as White House Press Secretary from 2014 to 2017. Recently Earnest has been a political analyst with NBC News and MSNBC.

As United describes it, he will be responsible for “developing the company’s global communications strategy, leading a world-class team to execute it, working closely with the company’s leadership to shape the airline’s public image and serving as the company’s chief spokesman.”

Here’s what United CEO, Oscar Munoz, had to say about this appointment:

“Josh is a proven leader and world-class communications strategist who has thrived when the stakes are the highest – and the margin for error is the smallest. He’ll play a crucial role on our leadership team as we position our brand and this company for success. I am looking forward to working closely with him to continue to expand United’s global leadership.”

And here’s what Josh Earnest has to say about joining United:

“United Airlines is an iconic, global brand with a long history – but it’s United’s bright future that makes me enthusiastic about joining the team. Cutting through the noise of the modern media environment is a challenge, especially in the highly competitive airline industry. United’s advantage will continue to be its customer-focused core values, dedicated employees and visionary leadership team. That’s the story that I am excited to tell.”

I can’t wait to hear him tell the story of United’s advantage being their “customer-focused core values” and “visionary leadership team.” Can you really call the guy who copies someone else’s homework for a living a visionary (I’m talking about Scott Kirby and him simply following Delta’s lead at both American and United)?

United has had a series of disastrous PR blunders the past couple of years. While the incidents as such were bad, the way United responded only made things worse. Do I think United actually has a worse culture than American, for example? No, I don’t think so. But I do think the perception is that they have a worse culture due to these highly publicized blunders. I flew Alaska yesterday from Los Angeles to New York and had an emotional support animal seated next to me, and several people commented “at least she’s not flying United.”

Hopefully in his new role, Earnest can help improve that image. I’d love to see him lead the airline to a more honest way of communicating. In other words, when someone is bloodied and dragged off a plane, they’re not actually being “re-accommodated.”

While I do think this is a smart appointment, I am still a bit skeptical. I say that simply because I think we see airlines recruit so many executives from outside industries, and time and again they don’t realize what a unique beast the airline industry is. I’m sure Oscar Munoz could tell us about that better than anyone.

What do you make of United appointing a former White House Press Secretary as Chief Communications Officer?

Comments

  1. You wouldn’t expect him to say “the rotten customer experience” and “bumbling copycat team” on the day his appointment is announced, would you? The hire probably means very little other than that they might respond more competently next time they screw up royally.

  2. Earnest should recycle the Obama administration’s healthcare soundbites for United:
    “If you like your seat, you can keep your seat.”

  3. Never a smart move to bring in someone who worked his entire career in government, recipe for incompetence in the real world.

  4. If anybody can spin lies to the public, it’ll be a White House crony.
    I can’t wait to see what Orwellian newspeak he will use for their next “involuntary de-boarding” or “adverse canine traportation incident.”
    Am the only one that sees an Oscar Wilde reference looming for his next memo?

  5. Corporate speak for lipstick on a pig with their legendary iconic values
    Hopefully he has contacts with some good lawyers on retainer
    I’m sure there will be another United drama before long
    Stormy Daniels lawyer might be a good choice

  6. UAL should focus on fixing the causes of their incidents and blunders at the grass roots level…..when the entire team consistently delivers great product and great service, there would be much less need to compensate for shortcomings with a polished and shined corporate communications strategy. No disrespect intended to the new guy, but its the front lines that form the customers’ impressions.

  7. My vote was for the Mooch! Then again, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has the right blend of poor information and unlikeability to really make the job her own.

  8. Snarky left wing political b.s. aside, spokespeople do not a great airline make. United needs to get back to the fundamentals of customer service.

  9. Always had a huge crush on Earest. Very smart, smooth talking, confident man. But I agree with Donna. What the frig he would want that job is beyond me.

  10. Honestly it would have been much more funny for United to hire Scaramucci, and watching him respond to incidents in his trademark foul-mouth hot tempered tirades lol.

  11. He’s cute. That’s a plus. I admire his courage in taking the job. Hopefully it will work out well for all concerned. It seems as if this job has to be easier than the one at the White House.

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