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Delta’s Under the Wing Blog: a review for F500 Business Blogging Wiki

April 25, 2008

I’ve found the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki quite interesting and have been reading reviews the past several months. For a quick background on the project, Easton Ellsworth and John Cass have instigated a volunteer effort for all comers to contribute reviews and evaluations of F500 blogs. Believe it or not, as of April 19, 2008, only 11.6% of the F500 are actively blogging – was pretty surprised by that.

So, after following the space and reading some impressive reviews, I decided to jump in and take a look at Delta Airlines’ blog, Under the Wing (UTW), which took flight on August 23, 2007. For the purposes of this review, I have employed Business and Blogging’s methodology and approach (great example from John on Avaya and Liz Fuller on General Motors).

Delta Airlines ranks 136 on the F500. I trust most readers to this blog have experienced Delta in some, way, shape or form (for good or bad, of course). Therefore, I won’t give the Delta boilerplate, go here if you’re curious about stats and facts.

Review (scale of 1-10)

Ease of finding: 8 - Though the reference to UTW may be a bit understated, one can link to it directly from the delta.com homepage – and that’s a good thing. Even if it’s a simple “blog” along the footer of the homepage, getting a 1/4 inch of real estate on the homepage is HUGE. Also, when you click “About Delta,” you can find a fairly obvious link to “Delta Blog: Under the Wing.”

Frequency: 9 – Since launching in late August 2007, UTW has posted 74 times, approximately 9 per month (as of April 25, 2008). Overall, posting has been consistent with December, January, and February dipping a bit low. For a breakdown on the number of posts by month: August-5, September-12, October-8, November-10, December-6, January-7, February-6, March-10, April-10.

Engaging writing: 7 – UTW features the typical travel tips, favorite places to go, new “green” initiatives (what company doesn’t have a socially responsible program these days?), and insider looks into new planes, website functionality and SkyMiles programs. The Planeguage animated videos are excellent and bring a bit of light, self-deprecating humor, which we can all relate to. However, I must say, the travel experience posts by Delta employees were fairly weak. Judging by the lack of comments, it’s obvious these posts are not that popular with the readers.

To bring a bit more “hard” and controversial content to further stimulate participation, how about writing up a Q&A with Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson, on what a merger with Northwest means for customers? Or perhaps, offer a response on The Airline Blog’s recent post Delta and Northwest Announce Merger.

Lastly, as Delta is the official airline of the Atlanta Braves, UTW features guest blogger and Braves OF Jeff Francoeur. Not a bad idea. He’s posted three times. The first one was a dud but the third one about the difficulties of packing for a Colorado, to DC to Florida road trip was decent.

Relevant: 8 – It’s clear that the readers “eat up” the posts regarding new website features and SkyMiles enhancements. So these are clearly relevant and informative. However, that shouldn’t be the sole focus of the content. I suggest Delta put together a mini monthly “editorial calendar” to help the content remain not only relevant but diverse. For example, I once heard it costs an airline $25k to de-ice a plane. Wow. As February was a particularly light month of posting, perfect opportunity to blog about deicing a plane at JFK with accompanied pics. I would imagine readers would “eat that up” as well.

Focused: 6 – UTW is just a bit too focused on Delta and when it’s not, I think it’s off the mark (i.e. the destinations posts were rather boring – except for Jacob’s recount and Picasa photos of South America. That was very cool.). One suggestion for the bloggers over at Delta is to comment and provide opinions on issues of the day. For example, in the April 22 WSJ, Scott McCartney’s Middle Seat Column, “Buckle In: It’s going to be a rough summer for flying,” provides a perfect opportunity for Delta to comment on the “record delays coupled with full and overbooked flights, airline under staffing, computer breakdowns at the FAA and labor issues with pilots and air-traffic controllers.

Honest: 7 - UTW can’t get mush more honest than it already is. For example, it pokes fun at the trials and tribulations of flying and dealing with Joe Q Public 30,000 feet in the air with its Planeguage short videos. Heck, they even admit that “in-flight safety videos can be very boring,” which is why they launched a new line of videos with this post, “World Premiere! Delta’s New In-Flight Safety Video.” I just wish we would see more commentary on current events pertaining to Delta and its customers.

Interactive: 6 – Looks like UTW uses a vendor call SezWho to write, rate and filter commentary. Also, I noticed each month a Delta employee posts about a favorite destination and tips and tricks when visiting. They use these posts to stimulate response from readers (i.e What are your favorite honeymoon destinations? or Have you visited Amsterdam – share your experience). My sense is that it’s not working that well. A quick suggestion: I read the news that Delta is offering its customers a “speedy ride between JFK and Manhattan” with US Helicopter. How cool is that? But the price is anything but cool. Use the blog to talk about this new offering and throw up a poll asking readers for their feedback. I bet that will garner quite a bit of interaction

Responsive: 9 - UTW’s second posting of its existence was written by Josh Weiss, Delta’s Managing Director of Delta.com. It garnered 39 comments ranging from everything on how to search for codeshare flights on Delta.com to a request to pay the pet fee online rather than having to pay it at the ticket counter. 6 days and 18 comments later, Josh responded en masse to many of the questions. A decent start but definitely room for improvement. Chris Babb gets Delta’s MVR (Most Valuable Responder). His post explaining how Delta is enhancing the entertainment experience with Delta on Demand received 145 comments. Well, actually 119 comments and 26 responses from Chris! Very cool.

In one of the more interesting posts written by “MIchael,” Delta’s in-house weather forecaster, he explained how Delta handles weather delays and the domino effect a weather pattern in the southeast can disrupt travel in the northwest. Out of 31 comments and questions, 14 were attributed to Michael answering reader questions.

Kudos to Delta’s GM of Delta.com and self service, Laura Hunnicutt. Though she’s only blogged twice, she’s active in responding to each and every reader.

Overall: 60 out of 80

We should commend Delta for flying into the blogsphere with a clean, organized, brand consistent and aesthetically pleasing blog (certainly can’t say the same about American Airlines’ “starter blog“). Generally, the posts are light, informative, and humorous. Some others seem to be simply filler. As I wrote on several instances above, I would suggest UTW takes on more “heavy” issues of the day that keep customers up at night – like devalued frequent flier miles, new baggage fees, fuel costs etc. Over the next several months, I’ll look for UTW to really take off given it’s strong start.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2008 4:04 am

    Hi Rich, loved the review, you gave some great advice, very inspiring!

  2. May 3, 2008 4:54 pm

    Hey Richard,

    Thanks for the props! I’ll take MVR any day! My background is PR and Marketing, so I understand the power of communication. The Delta blog is one of the most powerful platforms for listening to and responding to our customers.

    Thanks for the post!

    Chris B.

  3. Susan Trevino permalink
    August 30, 2008 7:44 pm

    The information about Delta airlines along with the merger with Northwest has been informative and I would fly with this company, if I flew more often. Under the circumstances, sometimes for financial reason and more cost effective, we drive.

  4. September 21, 2008 8:45 pm

    favorited this one, guy

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