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?