United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton under attack – by pilot Union.

Professional brands have always been subject to attack in the media, but until recently there have not been too many options for creating your own news channel to use as platform for staging complaints. A few days ago Robert Mark from JetWhine.com covered “United Pilots give Tilton a Kick” based on United Airline pilots launching a blog asking for the termination of the company’s CEO Glenn Tilton.

United Airline Pilots “We’ve started this web site because we’re tired of seeing the Tilton organization play the blame game”

Robert does an excellent job of defining some critical elements of the pilots site:

“Although the anti-site is not new, this well-organized site is quite a clever tactic. It’s easy for anyone to choose a juicy topic from the menu like Tilton’s “Operational Failures,” strategic blunders, financial or even employee and customer service screw ups like, “Only 38% of United employees are proud to work for the airline.” Ouch.

Something Tilton is just going to love is the convenient message form tied to Mr. Tilton’s e-mail so anyone can send him a comment. My guess is that mailbox is going to fill up pretty quickly.”

Looking away from the GlennTilton.com site, this is a coordinated effort to destroy a professional reputation (and I must add, it is a pretty well-thought effort too.)

If you search Google for – Glenn Tilton, there are 113,000 documents.

The first result is a Wikipedia entry that has already been edited to mention the GlennTilton site launched four days ago:

“The Air Line Pilots Association has long been a critic of Tilton’s management style and airline experience. On August 11, 2008, ALPA launched a website calling for Tilton’s resignation at www.GlennTilton.com.

Tilton has also been a vocal proponent of mergers in the airline industry, dating back to United’s bankruptcy days. Tilton attracted much scorn for his views on mergers, until recently with talk about consolidation among US network carriers.

Upon exiting bankruptcy, Tilton received compensation valued at $39,700,000, mostly in stock options that vest over several years, and this caused unrest among the airlines labor unions.”

United Pilots, flight attendants and supporters picket outside the United Airlines' shareholders meeting June 12.The second result is an article form the Chicago Sun-Times, “United Pilots want CEO Glenn Tilton to resign.” which clearly covers a statement made by the Union “the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said United needs new leadership. It launched a Web site to draw attention to what it says have been Tilton’s failures since he took over as CEO in September 2002.”

“‘‘This is not a personal attack on Glenn Tilton,’’ Wallach said. ‘‘These dismal numbers speak for themselves. They are a reflection of his inability to lead, his incompetence as a manager and his failure in virtually every category that can be measured. We have tried every conceivable way to convince him to invest in, and maximize the goodwill of, his employees. He has failed miserably.’’

Aside from Glenn Tilton, the bigger picture for online reputation problems extends to the overall United brand as well. On a search for United Airlines, one first page result is a wonderful article from Airsafe.com titled “Fatal Events Since 1970 for United Airlines (if that isn’t a bad brand line, I don’t know what is.)

The second negative result is a site playing on the same letters as United: Untied.com. The brutal items to assemble information against United are well assembled into brand problems that would rock the most hardened company: The worst airline — ever, Legal Action Time, Form Letter Time, Mishandled Minors, Joining Lawsuits are all examples of categories of information there.

According to Compete.com, Untied receives roughly 11,000 unique visitors a month who read that information. Assuming that an average ticket is $300 to $400, how many of the 11,000 unique visitors a month to Untied.com are either prospective United customers or current ones? Even if only 5% are (500 monthly unique visitors) the monthly brand damage by this one site can be estimated at $150k to $200k in lost revenue. Unfortunately I would estimate that the actual percentage of possible/current airline clients is in the 25% or higher range ($750k to $1 million monthly brand impact.)

If you are aware of other brand issues online and would like us to cover some of the ramifications or solutions to the situation, please contact us. Our team is always looking at these issues and examining how they are affecting business. FYI- we like hearing about positive social media brand impacts as well!