United Airlines has named former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest as its Chief Communications Officer.
In a press release, United describes his job description:
At United, he will be responsible for developing the company’s global communications strategy, leading a world-class team to execute it, working closely with the company’s leadership to shape the airline’s public image and serving as the company’s chief spokesman.
United CEO Oscar Munoz said:
Josh is a proven leader and world-class communications strategist who has thrived when the stakes are the highest – and the margin for error is the smallest. He’ll play a crucial role on our leadership team as we position our brand and this company for success. I am looking forward to working closely with him to continue to expand United’s global leadership.
Finally, Earnest himself offered painfully fulsome optimism about this new role:
United Airlines is an iconic, global brand with a long history – but it’s United’s bright future that makes me enthusiastic about joining the team. Cutting through the noise of the modern media environment is a challenge, especially in the highly competitive airline industry. United’s advantage will continue to be its customer-focused core values, dedicated employees and visionary leadership team. That’s the story that I am excited to tell.
I worked with two White House Press Secretaries over a decade ago–first Tony Snow, then Dana Perino. They could not have been more different.
Snow loved the daily briefings. He loved the banter with the press and would take the time to answer ever questions. He was in his element.
Perino, on the other hand, told me she hated the daily press briefings. She dreaded them like I dread the accounting side of my business. And it showed. It’s not that she wasn’t effective…she was…but it just seemed the daily press briefings and other press encounters were merely a painful obligation, not a passion. Daily briefings were much shorter than during Snow’s tenure.
I was outside the Administration during Earnest’s tenure, but he always struck me more like Snow than like Perino. And that’s a good thing for his latest position at United.
I do believe he can be effective in his new role at United. Like Lucky, though, I note the that the airline industry is a “unique beast” and requires a special skillset and knowledge base. Earnest now has a lot to learn if he is going to drive the image of United past the potholes of Dao and dead rabbits and dead dogs.