There is nothing new about a company suffering from a bad rep among consumers, but social media has given the most vocal of these disgruntled souls such an effective platform that big brands remain uncertain of how best to respond. Do you become part of the banter in an attempt to endear yourself to the more moderate of the twitter mob, or do you rise above it with the logic that to participate would only fan the flames?
Well now we know what Michael O’Leary’s preferred option is; screw fanning the flames. Better to arrive with a barrel load of petrol and watch the whole thing explode.
The Michael O’Leary approach
There are no words that can do justice to the plane crash that was Michael O’Leary on Twitter, so I’ll just list some of my personal favourites:
Unsurprisingly, Twitter was soon ablaze with anger. Most of the initial complaints had been regarding Ryan Air’s customer service, but soon accusations of sleaze and sexism were added to the rapidly expanding pile of c**p that appeared to be Ryan Air’s online reputation.
The lesson, and this is the confusing part, is that the MOL approach is possibly one of the smartest PR moves I’ve ever seen on Twitter. Michael O’Leary is an infuriating character. People already know that. And as for the jokes about hidden charges, scheduling errors and destination airports being in the wrong timezone, well they’ve been made so many times by TV panel show guests and the man down the pub that there’s really no further damage to be inflicted.
What Michael O’Leary did, quite brilliantly, was take those jabs on the chin with a smiley face here and a LOL there, while using the exposure to draw attention to the things that Ryan Air can actually be proud of:
As much as it may frustrate the many, many people that loath everything about Michael O’Leary and his shambolic airline, the reality is that when your reputation is so dire, the only way is up, so in spite of the quite breathtaking sequence of howlers from the world’s most hated aviation personality, I actually think the Ryan Air brand is the stronger for it.