I think the old phrase that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ has had its day now.
There were a couple of examples of the past few weeks that have had me pondering about the saying. With the way that social media has opened up communication between consumers and companies, we have increasingly seen that negative feedback can spread. Quickly.
I’m talking about the furore on Facebook that happened in August after Ryanair customer, Suzy McLeod, took issue with being charged over £200 for not printing out boarding passes prior to her flight. The complaint on the budget airline’s unofficial Facebook page received over 300,000 Likes and over 20,000 comments.
Ryanair, in response, did a remarkable job of putting its fingers in its ears, closing its eyes and humming ‘Camptown Races’ until its chief executive, Michael O’Leary (pictured), broke silence, describing passengers who forget to print their boarding passes as “idiots”.
The ‘rant’ was of course actually not a rant at all and was, I would assume, carefully thought out, in line with O’Leary’s outspoken, ‘us against the world’ PR strategy (more of his memorable quotes can be found here). However I’m of the opinion that this kind of strategy whilst at one point may have worked, with the instantaneous and very public two-way communication brought about by social media, is in need of a review. As @gordonmacmillan’s blog suggests; it’s time to listen, and engage.
Some articles claim Ryanair’s social media disaster was no such disaster after all – I’m not convinced.
Previously the airline could get away with batting away negativity from the public, but with social media allowing hundreds of thousands of people to voice their opinion en masse, only to be ignored or insulted; it is perhaps no surprise that in July of this year, Ryanair posted a 29% drop in profits.
It isn’t the first time that consumer outrage through social media has led to negative feedback for a large company. American car insurer, Progressive, faced a mass of fury from customers about this blog post in which the New York-based comedian Matt Fisher notes his frustration and anger with the company following the death of his sister in a car crash.
And even when brands provoke a reaction for the purpose of publicity, I’m not convinced it always hits the mark. Whilst ad agency Iris split opinion over its new staff benefits brochure to good effect, it was The Sun’s reaction to its fake newspaper headline from 1992, which spread across Twitter last week, that was perhaps misplaced.
The creators of the mock front page, the team behind The Sun’s ‘Hold Ye Front Page’, seemed to revel in Twitter users mocking The Sun’s stupidity, and retweeted comments throughout the day.
The obvious clues pointing to the page being a fake that were missed by users perhaps don’t highlight the ignorance of those commenting on the image, but rather serve as evidence of the low opinion of the newspaper among its non-readers.
No such thing as bad publicity? I’m not so sure anymore.