It started out as just a lost dog, but then it spun out of control when Air Canada’s spokesperson sent an email without checking who he was sending it to.
This is Larry, a greyhound who was flying Air Canada from San Francisco to Victoria, BC in October 2013, but (something many of us have experienced), his flight got canceled. While waiting for the flight to be rescheduled, Larry was let out by an employee for a walk (probably to use the facilities, if you know what I mean), when Larry made a run for it. (Larry later got hit by a car and died, sorry to say)
A reporter from a Sacramento TV station emailed Air Canada’s Vancouver spokesperson to ask about Larry the day he got lost. She responded quickly with a good statement. Then the reporter emailed her back with follow up questions, asking for quick responses for her deadline. The Vancouver spokesperson turned to Air Canada’s manager of corporate communications in Toronto, Peter Fitzpatrick, for advice. Well he must have been in a bad mood, because he was exasperated with the reporter’s questions, that he couldn’t answer.
So Fitzpatrick sent an email, intended for the Vancouver rep, that said “I think I would just ignore, it is local news doing a story on a lost dog. Their entire government is shut down and about to default and this is how the U.S. media spends its time.”
But you guessed it, he sent it instead to the reporter, who was not amused at being dismissed in this callous fashion. And they aired Fitzpatrick’s email in their story. The dog owner responded with: “Oh my God. I guess I wouldn’t expect anything different from a company that would allow something like this to happen.”
Remember, as a spokesperson, your every word can be public. This is more than just a misdirected email, it’s a reminder to never, ever take any reporter’s query as less than serious. Otherwise, the going can be really ruff.