Ryanair and The Art of Bad PR

17 10 2013

Ever since PR people first started talking about social, we have shared warning’s of the dire consequences of allowing negative stories to spin out of control online.

The first really big one was ‘Dell Hell’ when tech blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote a damning post and told the PC manufacturer to “put that in your Google and smoke it”.  That online PR train wreck contributed to Dell losing 25% of its value in the 12 months that followed.

So why would a company actively seek to create an online shit storm? This week Ryanair announced on Twitter that it wanted suggestions for improving customer service, it even used a hashtag #TellMOL (that’s Michael O’Leary).  Nigel Sarbutts of Brandalert described it as a “social media car crash” waiting to happen.  Bear in mind O’Leary who summed up his take customer service thus “people say the customer is always right, but you know what – they’re not.  Sometimes they are wrong and they need to be told so.”  Most companies accept that really poor customer service should ultimately lead to some form of recompense.  Not so MO’L who said; “you’re not getting a refund so f**k off. We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”

There is little doubt that O’Leary wants controversy.  Mark Pinsent, Social and content lead at Metia summed it up neatly; “If there was ever a company happy to invite and handle consumer vitriol, it’s Ryanair.”  The Ryanair boss is very much of the “no publicity is bad publicity school”. Here he is again; “Short of committing murder, negative publicity sells more seats than positive publicity”.

That said people aren’t really going to waste much time asking Ryanair to provide comfier seats and in-flight entertainment.  I also don’t think that too many people will be lulled into venting their spleen through such a bogus campaign. It will probably turn out to be a shit storm in a teacup.  There aren’t many people that can pull off the trick of turning bad PR into profit but O’Leary is a master so far.  His Ratner moment may be yet to come.

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CIPR ‘Share This’ Tops PR Book Chart

11 07 2012

‘Share This’ has gone straight to number 1 in the Amazon PR books chart on pre-orders alone.   The book is an initiative from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Social Media panel and much of the content is produced by panel members. It is subtitled the Social Media handbook for PR professionals and is set to become an industry standard.

It was conceived at a meeting of the panel last year initially as an e-book.  Both the publishers and the panel decided that there would be demand for a hard back version. More than 20 of the UK’s leading digital communications and PR professionals have contributed chapters to what is essentially a crowd-sourced social media book.  The cover carries an endorsement from no less than Lord Sugar.

The book which was unveiled this week is due to have its official launch at Google Campus, east London on Wednesday 18 July.  It will be published in both print and digital formats by Wiley on Friday 20 July.

Chapter One of the book, An Introduction to Social Networks by Katy Howell, is already available to download for free in PDF format.  The book in its entirety can be pre-ordered from Amazon or direct from the publishers.

At least seven of the chapter authors are already published authors in their own right.  The full list of contributors is as follows: Katy HowellSimon SandersAndrew SmithHelen NowickaGemma GriffithsBecky McMichaelRobin WilsonAlex LaceyMatt ApplebyDan TyteStephen WaddingtonStuart BruceRob Brown, Russell GoldsmithAdam ParkerJulio RomoPhilip SheldrakeRichard BagnallDaljit BhurjiRichard BaileyRachel MillerMark Pack, and Simon Collister.





PR Industry gets Guidance on Wikipedia

27 06 2012

The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has today published a guide advising PR professionals on how to approach Wikipedia.  The primary principle is that PR people should not directly edit Wikipedia pages that relate to their organisation or clients.  Instead they should use the network to suggest amendments to Wikipedians – the active Wikipedia editors.

A consultation hosted on Wikimedia UK received more than 160 direct edits.  The guidance document published by the CIPR today is version one – it will continue to be reviewed as the relationship between Wikipedia and the PR communities evolves.  The guidance is supported by the Canadian Public Relations Society, the Public Relations Consultants Association and the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

CIPR CEO Jane Wilson, said: “This guidance is aimed at helping public relations practitioners reach a better understanding of how to properly engage with one of the most visited sources of information on the internet and clearly lays out the process through which PR people can positively contribute to the encyclopaedia. The main theme of the guidance is quite simple – where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it.”

Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK Jon Davies, said: “I’m pleased that the PR industry is taking steps to learn more about Wikipedia and how it works.”

This clear guidance coming directly from the industry should reduce the areas of grey surrounding the editing of pages by some well established PR firms.

You can download the guide here.





SXSW – Al Gore and Sean Parker

13 03 2012

A session with the founding President of Facebook and the former Vice President of the USA is the sort of one off experience that on its own can justify the trip to Austin. The excitement in the vast auditorium was palpable.

This was a tour of the history and future of democracy and how it might be shaped by the social web. The Athenian ideal and the importance of the Gutenberg press were the scene setters. Gore remains the master of the sound bite. He illustrated the impact of print on the spread of democratic ideas with the line “Thomas Payne’s Common Sense was the Harry Potter of the18th Century”.

There was agreement between the two that democracy in the US in its current form is deeply flawed. The ability of people to promote and publish on-line may have an even more significant impact than the arrival of the printing press. Whilst the people in power don’t really understand the power of the social web says Sean Parker “we may have an opportunity to take back the system.”

Gore is a great orator but at times he seemed unaware that for this audience Parker was the person that many of the SXSW audience came to hear. That said when the the “Nerd Spring” arrives and the history of democracy and the web is written both of these men will be cited in dispatches.





LinkedIn and the Meaning of Connections

6 03 2012

I’ve just passed the 500 mark on LinkedIn and it feels wrong.  Let me explain.  I can’t possible know 500 people.  I’m fascinated and largely persuaded by the work of  British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

His theory known as ‘Dunbar’s number’ is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable relationships. That’s the sort where I know someone, they know me and we understand our relationship.  It is commonly held to be around 150. Dunbar says the “limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size”.

So how did I get here, my LinkedIn group was a list of people who I knew well personally or more commonly had worked with as colleagues, client, supplier or partners in various projects. So what went wrong? Why don’t I really know all of the people who I purport on-line to be connected to?  Here is my list of ways in which I think it’s gone wrong.

  • I’ve been on LinkedIn for around five years. Some people I knew well then, I don’t know well any more.
  • In building up my initial contact list I was probably over enthusiastic about finding and adding people.
  • A desire not to offend. I wrote a note to someone a couple of years ago politely declining an invitation to connect as we had no previous connection.  I received a vitriolic reply.  I still decline these invitations but accept others where the connection is tenuous.
  • Confusion. I think many people have a different view to mine on the nature of LinkedIn and networking on-line in general.

It may not matter but my network is clearly, to me and anyone that looks in, now a loose one. LinkedIn doesn’t annotate my actual number of connections any more. I’m like many other people a 500+.

Is there something I should do differently? There probably is. I should regard my online network as the loose association that it is and concentrate more on my real world network.  Obvious when you think about it.





Seven Predictions for the Future of PR

10 02 2012

It’s usual to post predictions for the year ahead in the first week of January rather than well into the second month.  Convention also dictates that thoughts for the future should come in nice round batches of ten.

My main reason for not posting earlier in the year was that I was holding back my ‘Mystic Meg’ style musings on the direction of PR for the Insight Twelve event brought to you by those wonderful people at Don’t Panic. Now that’s a mere memory, I’m sharing them here.

There’s no science behind the number seven.  That’s all I could muster, there are also no guarantees attached but the insights fall into three categories: no brainers, highly probable and debatable.  The last of these doesn’t indicate that I’m not convinced, more that others disagree.   You decide which is which.

1. Social Media will vanish

Strictly speaking I mean the description rather than the ‘thing’ itself.  The notion that social media marketing or PR exists in isolation of other channels will quickly disappear.  So called mainstream media is becoming more socialised, so I see the distinction evaporating and we’ll talk about media again not social or conventional.

2.  The link between PR & Search will become more significant

The top results on Google are the most important single influence on the reputation of any organisation or individual.  Search engines are also in a constant battle to promote natural search elevating real news and information. That’s where the enlightened and educated PR person comes in.

3.   The dymamics of the journalist and PR relationship will alter

This isn’t my prediction is was made by the hugely insightful journalist and blogger, Tom Foremski.  He has said “PR people … are pitching stories to journalists who have very much smaller pageviews on the stories they write, and far smaller Twitter/Facebook communities to which to distribute their stories, than the PR people.”  He also saw this trend over two-years ago.  Read his full post here.

4.   The decline in print and in newspapers will accelerate

No-one could have predicted the closure of the UK’s biggest selling newspaper in 2011.  It was prompted by scandal but owners NewsCorp know that they have to reduce their exposure to print. Circulation, pagination and title numbers will all fall in 2012.

5.   Video content will become more evident in PR campaigns

The growth in video consumption is astronomical. Apple TV will demolish the wall between web TV and current broadcast platforms.  Cost of production is in free fall.  You do the math.

6.    The definition of PR will change to reflect the reality

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is leading a global campaign to modernize the definition of public relations. It is addressing the prevailing confusion about public relations’ role and value and it is doing so in an open and engaging way.

7.    The reality of PR will change to reflect the impact of social channels on reputation

At the Think 11 conference last May, Colin Byrne, CEO UK and Europe, Weber Shandwick and Robert Phillips, CEO (EMEA), Edelman, both identified that the practice of PR was changing and that reputation was now built on action not spin.  We would do well to heed the brightest leaders in our profession.





Why’s X Factor’s Amelia Lily on hmv.com?

6 12 2011

When Amelia Lily returned to X-Factor a strange thing occurred.  News of her selection to replace the disgraced Frankie Cocozza appeared on the STV website  before the public vote had ended.  The X Factor PR machine claimed that site had prepared four stories to cover each of the contenders being voted back in by the public – but I looked at the time and I could only find Amelia’s.  No-one on twitter appeared to find the others at first either.

Earlier today Amelia’s winners’ single appeared on the HMV website, five days before viewers are asked to part with cash in order to take part in the big final public vote.  I can state categorically that as of 18.19 on Tuesday 6 December the other finalists don’t have winners’ singles for sale at hmv.com.

Ten days ago the X Factor M&S advert also appeared with a newly edited version giving Amelia the starring role in place of Misha B.  So what is going on?

Accusations of fixing are rife, but if the outcome is fixed it would be difficult to keep under wraps.  My best guess is that this is a cynical publicity stunt aimed at boosting the volume of column inches and pixels devoted to Amelia Lily because  more interest=more votes and Cowell and his company think she’s the act that they can make the most money from.  Here are my reasons.

  1. The Amelia Lily PR machine has been in overdrive in recent days
  2. The title of the song doesn’t appear on the website – that’s a big reveal kept for the final
  3. The single was removed from the hmv site at around 18.30 – but only after the Mirror published the story and the leak started to trend on twitter

Fix or not the X Factor bosses seem to have as much regard for a fair and free vote as the Russian prime minister.








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