Ryanair crash lands in Twitter chat

In a recent survey published in Britain’s premier consumer magazine, Which?, budget airline Ryanair was voted last among 100 top brands in quality of customer service. Perhaps the airline is finally starting to realize that it needs to improve its awful reputation in order to remain competitive and make an effort not to “unnecessarily piss people off”.

“Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary told shareholders Friday his airline must improve how it treats passengers and handles complaints so that customers don’t feel pushed around by staff and unfairly imposed charges – and potentially take business to other airlines offering more than Ryanair’s budget model.”

But if Ryanair thought a Q&A session on Twitter with CEO Michael O’Leary would do any good, they failed miserably. The thing with inviting customers to a public debate is that you will not always get the responses you wish. We’ve seen a number of cases where critics have hijacked hashtags on Twitter because it’s a great opportunity to get exposure for your complaints. In a case with a brand that so many people hate, you would obviously expect that critics would take advantage of the situation. People who would otherwise have been silent, now feel there’s an excuse to voice their opinions.

Some examples under the hashtag #GrillMOL on Monday were:

“Were you born an arsehole or has it progressed throughout your life?”

“Is it company policy for your staff to be rude and unhelpful as possible?”

“Due to fly to Riga on Saturday but can’t go as my mum in law is losing her cancer battle. 388 quid to re-book seems unfair”

“Why no response for a refund request (sent reg. post) in over a month from seriously ill girl with special needs? @Ryanair #scum”

Here’s another great tweet from @AndyGilder, mocking Ryanair:

Twitter chat Ryainair Michael O'Leary

O’Leary’s history of nasty macho responses to everyone from customers to journalists and politicians has earned him the title “aviation’s most hated man”. The Twitter chat was no exception as he started out commenting female Twitter users’ avatars: “Nice pic. Phwoaaarr! MOL”, to which others responded:

@Ryanair how is it appropriate for an airline CEO to be a sexist pig?”, and: “People who fly Ryanair: do you also think this is an acceptable thing to tweet at a woman?”

A brand in trouble could make use of social media if their intent is genuine, if they are really there to listen and be prepared to change. If you open up a dialogue with critics just to mock them, prepare for disaster.

However, as is often the case, even bad publicity will get you attention and the @Ryanair Twitter account has gained nearly 2,000 new followers in the next two days. Perhaps this could be the start of something new, after all. But until the company changes its approach to customer service and to its own employees, I will not fly with Ryanair.

ryanair twitter

The Barilla crisis: the brilliant competitor response that never was

Italian pasta brand Barilla found itself in the middle of a crisis yesterday, caused by a quote from its chairman Guido Barilla. In a radio interview, Mr Barilla said that the company would not include gay people in its advertising. After threats that customers would start a boycott against the brand, the company issued an official apology.

As often happens in cases like these, customers tend to make fun of the brand, posting things such as fake ads on social networks and generally trying to humiliate the brand. These online comments often go viral. This time, one popular item is the following comment from one of Barilla’s competitors, Pasta Garofalo.

garofolo barilla spoof

But while making fun of a competitor in a crisis may give you a few laughs and some instant publicity, it’s a risky business. Creating an atmosphere where it is ok to stab competitors in the back may in the long run result in damage to both brands. And the good people at Garofalo know this, that’s why they never posted the image above. It’s a spoof and have been created by someone else, pretending it’s an official comment from the brand.

The company quickly posted a comment on its Facebook page to set things straight. The comments says that the ad is not theirs, they have not been involved and they do not approve of it. I think it was wise of them to act and to distance themselves from the ad. And as always, if in doubt if something is fake or not, try check the source.

Ryanair threatens to sue Swedish newspaper

The Swedish local daily Sörmlands Nyheter (sn.se) today published an article with the headline “Ryanair pilots forced to fly free”. In the article, pilots describe how they get paid only for scheduled hours and not a minute more. If an aircraft is delayed, it means that pilots fly for free once their scheduled time has run out.

“This is extremely stressful, especially in the evenings. Everyone wants to come home and if you are going to fly the next day you have to get some rest between flights. Landing too late means you don’t get to fly the next day and then we have flown without pay ang get no income day after. This forces you to make stupid decisions and is a major safety hazard. I doubt that passengers know that the person flying them sometimes do so without pay,” says one pilot who wants to remain anonymous in fear of getting sacked by the airline.

The article describes the pilots’ dissatisfaction with current working conditions. In a follow up article, Ryanair’s Head of Communications Robin Kiely denied all claims from the pilots, claiming they were “rubbish”. In an email response to the paper, he also threatened to sue the paper if the statements from the pilots were published.

“If you publish any of these claims, we will initiate legal action against your newspaper,” Kiely wrote.

That seems like normal procedure at the airline, which just last week threatened to take legal action against British Channel 4, after a documentary about pilots’ concern over passenger safety. Apparently the PR strategy from Ryanair is to stop pilots from publishing any views on social networks (I blogged about it here in Swedish) and threaten to sue any media outlets that publish anonymous comments from pilots. That doesn’t sound like an airline that I would ever fly with.

Subaru Emirates’ local social media blunder has impact on Subaru in the USA

It is not uncommon that brands suffer serious backlashes on social networks for controversial or offensive campaigns, tweets or Facebook posts. Sometimes the damage to the brand is minimal, but a local issue can quickly damage a global brand. Here’s one fresh example from Subaru in Dubai.

Last Thursday, four people were killed in a car crash on the Shaikh Zayed Road in Dubai, among them a nine-month-old baby. The driver reportedly stopped in the middle of the road due to a flat tire instead of pulling over to a safer place on the side of the road. Another vehicle smashed into the car killing four people.

Real Time Marketing gone bad

In an attempt to use the incident in its marketing, Subaru Emirates in Abu Dhabi posted a status update on its Facebook page with the following message.

“Women driver at it again.

An entire family has perished as a result of a grave mistake by a lady driver on SZR this weekend. A Jordanian woman parked her car right in the middle of the road on Sheikh Zayed motorway after it suffered from a tyre puncture. She ignored the driver’s warning to take her car off the road and fix the tyre on the hard shoulder area.

Unfortunately a driver who was passing through that area had warned the woman to instantly take her car off the road but that she did not listen.
Call it her ignorance, 4 innocent soul paid with their life including a 9-month-old baby boy. Another woman in the car was said to be seriously wounded.

Well RTA cannot put in extra parameters for women to check their presence of mind during crisis situation while driving, its all about being responsible drivers.”

subaru emirates social media blunder

The post blaming the driver’s gender and nationality for the accident caused an uproar among local Facebook users and the post was taken down the day after. Subaru Emirates also posted a somewhat backhanded apology on Facebook:

“Dear Readers,

A recent post on our Facebook Page offended the sentiments of a number of people.

Our sincere apology goes out to everyone for this.

We respect your sentiments and have taken down the post with immediate effect.

At Subaru, SAFETY IS OUR TOPMOST PRIORITY AND CONCERN.

The news posted yesterday was intended as a general awareness message. Sometimes with the best of intentions a final communication may come out wrong. This was one such instance. We just want to bring to everyone’s notice to please be more cautious while driving.

Our sincere apologies once again.”

Local crisis becomes international crisis

But the social media blunder dit not only hurt the brand locally, comments soon flooded the US Subaru brand page on Facebook were several people reposted the offensive post, forcing Subaru of America to respond and take action.

subaru america facebook

This case shows how important it is to respond to social media crises quickly and in a manner that doesn’t initiate further criticism. If you don’t, there is a real risk that the issue will spread more widely. It also goes to show that the concept of using current news stories for brand marketing easily can backfire.

Teenage girls sentenced in Swedish Instagram defamation case

instagram logoTwo girls, aged 15 and 16, were today sentenced in Gothenburg, Sweden, for defamation of 38 teenagers on Instagram. The two were responsible for posting photographs of mostly girls on Instagram, calling them out as “sluts” with claims of different sexual activities. More than 200 teenagers claimed to have had their photographs published on the “hate accounts” on Instagram, which at one point led to the so called Instagram riots outside the Plusgymnasiet high schoool in Gothenburg late 2012. The case eventually involved 38 plaintiffs where the evidence were strong enough to press charges against the girls.

The younger of the two admitted to publishing the photos, but the older girl had denied that she has been involved. During three days in December 2012, the Instagram account “Gbgsorroz” published names and photos with slanderous comments of more than 200 teenagers. The convicted girls asked others for tips, photos and comments via the messenger serivce Kik, and then published this information on Instagram.

The two girls have now been convicted and sentenced to youth care and youth service. In addition, they shall pay damages to each of the plaintiffs to the amount of 15,000 SEK, or 570,000 SEK in total (85,000 USD).

The information about who was behind the account was obtained from Microsoft and local internet service provider ComHem, according to the district court. They then tracked who used the actual IP number that had been assigned to one of the accused parents, according to SVT.

The entire sentence can be found here in Swedish.

Burger King and Jeep turn Twitter hacking into PR opportunity

Earlier this week, the official Twitter account for Burger King was hacked and turned into a McDonald’s feed. Now, the same thing has happened to @Jeep. The Jeep logo was replaced with a Cadillac logo and the hackers tweeted things like “We got sold to @Cadillac because we caught our employees doing these in the bathroom” with an image of a bottle of prescription-only pills. Jeep soon got control of the account and deleted the tweets tweeted by the hacker.

For a brand, crises like these are of course serious, but handled correctly they can also become an opportunity. Often an account that is involved in a similar incident gains a lot of followers, thanks to the increased attention.

This time, both Burger King and Jeep turn the hacks into a PR opportunity by posting some clever tweets. Burger King seized the opportunity to send their wishes to a brand that was the victim of the same type of crisis, which showed a human side of the brand.

burger king hacked twitter tweet

Jeep cleverly responded with this tongue in cheek tweet.

jeep twitter hacked tweet

As you see, both tweets got loads of retweets and were marked as favourite by many followers. Also, note the dots before the Twitter handle, enabling all their followers to see the tweets, not only the ones that follow both accounts.

I’m lovin it 😉