Making ‘news’ to hide what’s really going on?

PR stunts divert attention

FOR SOME TRAVEL COMPANIES PR STUNTS DIVERT ATTENTION AWAY FROM NEGATIVE NEWS. IS A NEW ‘MILLENNIAL’ AIRLINE ANOTHER EXAMPLE?

When I hear a travel provider suggesting something unusual my cynical side thinks there’s something else going on. In particular that their dodgy news story is a cover up for something they don’t want the general public to hear about.

I call it the Ryanair approach.

NO PUBLICITY IS BAD PUBLICITY?

Ryanair’s CEO once talked about ‘generating noise’ to get talked about on social media and attract people to their website. This also follows a crisis management model. If someone’s most recent memory of you was positive then they’re less likely to think bad of you when something negative crops up. A ‘halo effect’.

Note how Ryanair announced ‘standing seats’ a few weeks prior to bad news about their profits and misleading advertising complaints came out. Coincidence?

But this isn’t really about Ryanair. At least they’re upfront about their approach to promoting their business.

STUNTS DIVERT ATTENTION

Southern Rail scored lots of positive media coverage when they let a teenager on work experience take over their Twitter account. He did a good job. And people who’d never experienced Southern Rail’s service would have thought positively of them after hearing about it. But like many other PR professionals I was skeptical.

Shortly after this Southern Rail was fined by the Government for poor service. Noticing a pattern here?

The stunt-based model of promotion can be traced back to the 1800s. Stunts still have a place in modern media, they get people talking and create viral content. But it’s (fortunately) becoming harder for brands to use them to ‘bury’ bad stories.

News sticks around online. It’s becoming much easier to see what’s really happening. Google gives you a whole library of newspaper cuttings at your fingertips. And people might be more inclined to do their own research since the term ‘fake news’ became widely used.

AN AIRLINE FOR THE MILLENNIAL MARKET?

‘Millennial’, used to generalise people aged roughly 18-35, is at risk of becoming an overused buzzword.

Most days I read something in the media blaming ‘millennials’ for everything from shortages of avocados to killing the wine cork business. So it feels really odd when a major brand announces they’re diversifying to launch an expensive new service specifically for ‘millennial’ customers. Like Air France did with ‘Joon’.

Whether this is another smoke and mirrors example remains to be seen. It certainly got people talking and achieved a lot of media coverage for Air France. I look forward to seeing if Joon takes off, apparently later in 2017.

In the meantime I’ll be monitoring news about Air France with interest.

I often share my take on news stories on Twitter – don’t forget to follow me and join in the conversation.

PS I’m not against Ryanair, I would travel with them again. Their basic service matches up to what they promise – another good reputation management theory.

Image: Pat Pom

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