When press agentry can land you in court

yumfoot.com reports that low cost airline, Ryanair to close its website for three days – at a financial cost of £20 million (according to the Times).  Despite speculation that the move is to finally respond to Office of Fair Trading orders to ensure prices cited are fully inclusive of taxes and other charges, the standard press agentry response from the company is that it is simply expanding the website’s capacity.

The company, as recently posted, is famed for its adversarial PR approach to stakeholders (enabling linkages) and it wouldn’t suit its macho image to look like it is responding to such external pressures.

Ryanair has arguably been very successful as a result of an aggressive press agentry strategy that counters the “excellent” PR approach of developing stakeholder relations and protecting a positive reputation.  However, with the airline itself predicting profits are likely to be severely impacted by the current economic climate (and as Ryanair claims, government policies), it may begin to realise why other organisations put co-orientation over confrontation.

The OFT itself has been criticised for its approach to public relations, with a high court judge attacking the organisation for engaging in “public relations exercises” and trying to attract “sensationalist publicity”

Indeed, supermarket Morrisons has begun a libel action against the OFT based on a press release, which has also been criticised by Tesco.  Mr Justice Davis summed up his views:

“The original press release seems to me to illustrate the dangers of bodies such as the Office of Fair Trading engaging in public relations exercises designed or calculated to attract potentially sensationalist publicity via the media,”

Putting PR in the dock seems to be increasingly common – see the PR Conversations post regarding the US Federal Court case debating whether PR is in fact racketeering.

These cases highlight increased recognition of the power of PR – further emphasising why even the supposedly simply tactic of drafting a press release should not be undertaken without wider understanding of the business implications of such public communications.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.