“It is not company policy to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers, and Ryanair can confirm that it will not be happening again.
Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves ..”
Professional corporations would never adopt this kind of manner on television, so why on earth did Ryanair think that the above comment from its representative was such a great idea in the blogosphere?
The spat in brief
The above quote, reported on travel industry blog Travolution, represented the response of Steven Macnamara, a representative of European Airline Ryanair, to a public spat between web design blogger Jason Roe and several commenters who identified themselves as staff of the airline.
Mr. Macnamara confirmed that one commenter, who referred to Mr. Roe as ‘a liar and an idiot,’ was indeed an employee of Ryanair.
Mr. Roe became the recipient of a barrage of insults and ill mannered comments from several commenters who identified themselves as staff members of Ryanair after posting a discussion about a technical flaw which he discovered within the airline’s online reservation system. As a result of this flaw, the system displayed a total cost of $0.00 for his flight.
(It should be noted that Mr. Roe stated explicitly that he was not claiming that his readers could exploit such a flaw in order to obtain free flights, nor did he advocate any form of attempt to execute any kind of scam in response to its discovery. He was merely pointing out the existence of the flaw in question.)
Not all publicity is good
I am frankly at a loss to understand what the airline was thinking in terms of its handling of this matter, a view echoed by many who commented upon the discussion in question, and also by other commentators such as public relations consultant Alina Popescue.
Most likely, the airline simply failed to take this seriously. Or perhaps they saw their provocative remarks as an opportunity to fan the controversy in order to gain extra mileage from a publicity viewpoint.
If this was its goal, it succeeded – the spat has generated a considerable amount of publicity and would have no doubt gained the attention of a good number of European travelers.
But should organizations aspire to gain publicity at all costs, or should they seek only that publicity which is likely to help strengthen the value of their brand?
The answer should be obvious, and the practice of organizations seeking forms of publicity which merely give consumers a reason to not use their services is not a sensible practice.
I cannot not see any possible reason why these kind of disparaging remarks would somehow inspire members of the European travelling public to use Ryanair’s services.
On the contrary, I would understand why an inclination on behalf of some travelers to consider use of alternative airlines, either due to offense taken at the condescending tone which the comment adopts not only toward Mr. Roe but also toward the blogosphere in general, or because it does little to inspire confidence in terms of the professionalism of an organization in which travelers are asked to entrust not only their own safety but also that of their children and family members.
Seriously, what were they trying to achieve other than alienation of the European travelling public?
Lessons from the old world
In many ways, platforms such as the blogosphere and social media have altered the media landscape.
But some things have not changed. Bad PR strategies in the traditional media landscape have not miraculously transformed into effective ones in the blogosphere. This includes the adoption of poor forms of corporate etiquette, which never has been a good idea and never will be.
Personally, I cannot recall many instances of corporate representatives using radio or television appearances to make derogatory remarks about members of the public. Why – most likely because PR departments (rightly) concluded that such a strategy would achieve little other than to decimate a company’s corporate reputation.
I do not understand why it would be any different in the blogosphere, and strategies which were so completely rejected in the traditional media landscape should receive similar treatment in the new landscape.
All Ryanair would appear to have accomplished with its conduct with respect to this matter is to give the European travelling public a reason to use the services of its competitors.