No The TSA Really Didn’t Take Your Baby

Late last week as we where all recovering from balloon boy, another minor kefuffle percolated to the top involving a mother and her child being separated during a TSA checkpoint screening. This story provides some interesting insight from a reputation management and social media perspective, so I’d like to delve a little deeper.So last week a post went viral titled “TSA Agents Took My Son” it was an emotion filled post that culminated with this gut wrenching moment:

The male TSA agent repeated, “I’m going to have to pick him up to inspect him.”
I handed him my son.
I handed him my son and he walked away with my child.
My eyes welled up with tears, I stood up from my chair and I asked the female TSA agent, “Where is he going? Where is he taking my child? Why is he leaving?”
Jackson, while being whisked away looked at the male TSA agent awkwardly and repeated “no no no no.”
I started crying.
The female TSA agent did not answer me.
Panic set in. My hands began to shake. My body was sweating. My breath was short and my heart was racing.
They had taken my child and not told me.
Jackson was out of my eye sight.
I could not see my son.

Anyone who is a parent has a tremendous amount of empathy for this woman and her situation, and anyone with even the slightest level of humanity can say that’s not an ideal set of circumstances. Years of the discovery channel and animal planet have taught us coming between a mother and her cub is never going to have happy ending.

Here’s where the story takes a turn and gets interesting, the TSA used their blog as tool to become involved in the situation. They even went to extraordinary measures, and edited together the video’s from different closed circuit surveillance camera’s of this woman’s entire interaction with the TSA.

I’ve watched the video twice and I don’t see a TSA agent taking her son out of her sight, in fact I don’t really see her son leaving her side. He may have been in the stroller and was farther away than she had a comfort level for, but no he didn’t really leave her side.

What are the take aways here:

  • If the TSA didn’t have a blog or other social media outlet, participating in the conversation would have been much more difficult.
  • Choosing to remain mute, in a time of crisis isn’t always a good idea, as you can’t provide balance to the story, and lose by default
  • Have a small team of key players, who can get involved, react, and solve problems like this when they involve
  • React as soon as possible when you have all the facts, and try to do it within 24 hours, even on holiday weekends unless you want a motrin mom moment on Monday morning
  • If you can’t get traction on the organic side be prepared to go with PPC, thats why its important to have an adwords account already active and in place
  • Be as truthful and transparent as possible it almost always works to your advantage, especially in the long run

It doesn’t matter how conservative you are, and how much of a negative reputation you have, if you deal with the general public or a large portion of your customer base is participating in social media, you need to be there as well.

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