- In a tweet advertising their new flights to Nairobi, Kenya, Korean Air called Kenyans “indigenous people full of primitive energy.
- They have tweeted an apology, but some people are quite upset and the #PrimitiveEnergy hashtag on Twitter is going viral across Asia and Africa. Certainly not the kind of publicity an airline is looking for, prior to launching its first route to a country.
- The advertisement provoked a strong reaction from Kenyans, most of them amused rather than furious.
- When Korean Air received hundreds of tweets directly addressed to them, they apologized on Twitter, a day after the incident, going to the extent of copying-and-pasting the same apology to many angry tweeters.
- While Korean Airline apologized soon enough, international airlines today operate in an environment where they need to be aware of the possibilities of unintentionally offending someone because gaffes such as this one spread far and fast in the age of social media. In this case outrage was sparked by a Dutch journalist.
How to react in these situations?
- This can be mitigated immediately hire a native-English speaker, perhaps a Literature major who would proof-read all translated material and collateral before it gets published.
- Not to copy and paste the same reply to multiple people. The last thing you want to do is to make individuals feel that you’re trying to treat them like everyone else. While the apology should be tweeted publicly, best way to engage individuals should be through Direct Messages
- Hire an external experienced PR agency to handle these situation.