The post: Yes, CEOs Should Facebook And Twitter – Forbes.com, claims that social media damaged the Ryanair brand following an employee’s marvellously insulting reply to blogger, Jason Roe – and the even more non-textbook response from the company’s spokesman, Stephen MacNamara:
Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.
Datadial blog is one of many offering free advice to Ryanair around the classic model of politeness to turn an issue into “positive PR” – whilst Alex Bainbridge offers a counter perspective with advice for bloggers on handling problems.
Some of these seem pure press agentry, such as Michael O’Leary’s brilliant throwaway comment in a BBC Breakfast interview regarding charges for using the toilet, which generated enough press headlines to keep the airline in loo paper for the next year.
Which leads to the question of whether Ryanair has actually conceived a new model for social media public relations based on playing the online community.
I expect you’ve seen the spoof Ryanair safety card which has travelled the planet quicker than any airline could imagine (with further online irony courtesy of the Daily Mash). Well, Ryanair is behind this poke at its brand as its website announced a competition last week, citing MacNamara :
We are asking passengers to submit their ideas (for generating ancillary revenue) with the most creative winning €1,000 cash.
Simpliflying sees this Ryanair as an airline that can laugh at itself – unlike many in the social media world who take themselves far too seriously.
So I propose the new Ryanair social media PR model:
- Get your CEO to say something extreme on national television leading to plenty of online and mainstream media coverage
- Be as insulting and outrageous as you possible can to some online sap who criticises your organisation (there’ll be one along any minute…)
- Respond with further insults to the wider online community
- Ensure the mainstream media picks up on the resulting furore which then feeds back into further online chatter
- Keep up the momentum by insulting the Twittosphere too
- Parody your brand with a viral that will be passed on by the very saps that you’ve spent a few weeks insulting
- Launch a competition that enables further extreme (and possibly viable) revenue generating ideas to emerge
- Hope that all the negative comments and anti-Ryanair Facebook groups keep those moaning middleclass customers away from your airline
- Repeat… ad nauseum or until your profits and/or share price collapse, by which time O’Leary et al will be nicely enjoying their millions on the Fred Goodwin gravytrain.
Personally I don’t think Ryanair has a model of PR that anyone should be proud about, or attempt to replicate. But, it is true to its brand – by which I mean, it lives up to the promise it makes. Like the world’s worst boyfriend, it isn’t exactly promising you flowers and romance – but if you want to be disrespected in exchange for a cheap quicky…