A new model of social media PR?

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.

It is hard to believe that Ryanair isn’t operating the Gerald Ratner self-destruct model of public relations, as every week brings a new story about removing services and adding charges.

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.

Ryanair has also been playing with Twitter – joining and leaving in rapid succession, securing more on/offline comment as a result of insulting customers in the meantime.

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:

  1. Get your CEO to say something extreme on national television leading to plenty of online and mainstream media coverage
  2. Be as insulting and outrageous as you possible can to some online sap who criticises your organisation (there’ll be one along any minute…)
  3. Respond with further insults to the wider online community
  4. Ensure the mainstream media picks up on the resulting furore which then feeds back into further online chatter
  5. Keep up the momentum by insulting the Twittosphere too
  6. Parody your brand with a viral that will be passed on by the very saps that you’ve spent a few weeks insulting
  7. Launch a competition that enables further extreme (and possibly viable) revenue generating ideas to emerge
  8. Hope that all the negative comments and anti-Ryanair Facebook groups keep those moaning middleclass customers away from your airline
  9. 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.

Indeed, Jason Roe claims to be an SEO expert and he is based in Ryanair’s home city of Dublin – conspiracy theory anyone?  JoeBloggs doesn’t think so claiming: “bad PR doesn’t get you sales.”

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…

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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.

8 thoughts on “A new model of social media PR?”

  1. Great take!

    Ryanair have eschewed PR in favour of raw publicity.

    Well, you wrote a blog post about them. So did I.

    I agree – it’s a cheap tactic. But they’re a budget airline. It works.

  2. Thanks guys – I do enjoy it particularly when the BBC reports on Ryanair as the journalists totally miss the irony of how they are promoting O’Leary’s bad behaviour. The BBC Breakfast clip shows he clearly enjoys this “free publicity”.

  3. Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like Ryanair is just employing some of that famous UK humour? I mean, all we’ve got here is dry, conservative Air Canada *yawn*

    This is a great take, Heather. It likens the Burger King “Sell a Facebook Friend for a Whopper” contest. It depends on the audience Ryanair is trying to attract here; old school PR folks mind find this foolish, but I find it wonderfully brilliant. In an age of terror and airline paranoia, here is an airline that can have a little fun.

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