Munoz Will Not Be United Chairman

2017-04-24 by Ronn Torossian

Munoz Will Not Be United Chairman

Not that long ago, United CEO Oscar Munoz was riding high. Recently named PR Week’s Communicator of the Year, Munoz was already United CEO and was all set to step into the Chairman’s seat. Then came a series of escalating PR problems and at least one outright PR disaster. Munoz tried to apply those award-winning communication skills, but Joe and Jane Public were simply not having it.
After the Leggings Incident, which turned out to be fairly overblown. United was right back in the news when a doctor who refused to leave a flight was manhandled and dragged off a flight. Munoz was forced to respond after video of the incident hit social media, and major media ran with the story. Munoz badly bungled the response. First, he offered a party line that was clearly not the case, calling the doctor disruptive and blaming bad behavior for his ouster. The public set fire to social media, aghast at United’s “apparent disregard” for its passengers.

It took Munoz’s team three more tries to get the message on point, and the public was none too pleased with the repeated attempts. United didn’t fare any better in the eyes of the PR pros either. PRWeek editor in chief Steve Barrett blasted Munoz’s handling of the doctor dragging incident, saying:

“If PRWeek was choosing its Communicator of the Year now, we would not be awarding it to Oscar Munoz… In time, the episode and subsequent response will be quoted in textbooks as an example of how not to respond in a crisis.”

From “Communicator of the Year” to textbook terrible response. Not a strong endorsement. And, now it looks like even his superiors are beginning to share that opinion. United’s parent company, United Continental Holdings, said that, while Munoz will remain CEO, he will not also assume the role of Chairman, as previously promised.

The associated paperwork, of course, made no mention of the incident or its poor handling, but the message was fairly clear: “The Board believes that separating the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board is the most appropriate structure at this time… Having an independent Chairman of the Board is a means to ensure that Mr. Munoz is able to more exclusively focus on his role as Chief Executive Officer.”

Even more telling, the paperwork stated that Munoz’s compensation package, going forward, will be more closely tied to customer satisfaction. At this point, that’s probably a step in the right direction.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

ronn torossian 5wpr ceo

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities