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53% of consumers less likely to travel on United Airlines after PR Mishap

Survey finds that the press coverage of top-name brands impacts consumer purchase behavior

United's latest PR crisis involving a security official removing an unwilling passenger from a flight has been poorly-received by consumers, 53% of whom say they are less likely to continue purchasing tickets from United. The data comes from a recent survey conducted by Clutch, a B2B research company, which targeted 1,000 consumers in the US.

According to the report, 52% of consumers say they do not believe United handled the situation correctly, influencing them to change their buying behavior in a way that weakens the United brand.

Negative press coverage that companies generate seemingly has a direct impact on consumers' purchasing decisions. Clutch's survey finds that when considering a high-cost purchase, like a plane ticket, double the amount of consumers care about a company's presence in the news than they do when making low-cost purchases.

Clutch interviewed David Kippen, CEO of Evviva Brands and industry expert in branding and PR, to gather his thoughts on the relationship between press coverage and consumer purchase decisions.

"The bottom line is, if I'm making a high-cost investment as a consumer, I'm generally buying a durable consumer good or investing in a future event. If that's the case, then I'm going to be much more concerned about the future status of a company in which I'm making the investment," said Kippen.

Additionally, Clutch's report finds that 52% of consumers use social media more than any other media outlet. As a result, news stories can travel at a more rapid rate than ever before. Brands, then, are at a greater risk of falling in the minds of consumers who may witness a negative news event and change their opinion of that brand for the worse, the report claims.

United Airlines is a direct example of this phenomenon. According to the survey, 46% of consumers who are aware of United's latest PR mishap also have a negative perception of the brand.

Clutch's survey also explores the PR incidents of top-name brands including Pepsi and Chick-Fil-A to get a deeper understanding of the way consumers' perceptions of brands change in response to negative news coverage.

The report also includes excerpts from experts in the PR and branding industries to advise companies on the importance of having a solid PR strategy to maintain a brand's value and consumer following.

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