Case Study: United Airlines’ Announcement of Brett Hart as Acting CEO

October 20, 2015

By Dr. David B. Fogel, Ph.D.

On October 15, 2015, the new CEO of United Continental Holdings, Inc. (United), Oscar Munoz, suffered a heart attack. He’s now on medical leave and I’m sure everyone who has a connection to the aviation industry wishes him a speedy recovery.

In the interim, United has named Brett Hart, United’s executive vice president and general counsel, as acting CEO. United issued a press release on this matter yesterday, which can be found here.

A quick EffectCheck® analysis shows that this succinct 330-word notice is well crafted in terms of its lexical emotion profile. When compared to hundreds of other corporate press releases, United’s press release evokes typical levels of anxiety, hostility, depression, and happiness, but importantly very high levels of confidence and compassion.

Figure 1 shows the overall EffectCheck histogram and Figure 2 shows the 30-word moving window analysis. The latter indicates that the press release closes with strong levels of confidence, compassion, and happiness, along with low levels of anxiety, and very low levels of hostility and depression.

United Airlines Case Study Figure 1

Figure 1. Overall EffectCheck histogram assessing United’s press release of October 19, 2015. Very high levels of confidence and compassion are evoked as compared to typical corporate press releases.

United Airlines Case Study Figure 2

Figure 2. A 30-word moving window analysis of the United’s press release of October 19, 2015. The press release closes very strongly.

In all, this brief announcement is an example of a very effective, to-the-point, and lexically appropriate notice following a tragic event.