Ryanair’s Cheap Shot – I’m Not Taking The Bait…

There’s lots of blog bustle about this Ryanair story. (In summary, a blogger wrote about a minor glitch he’d experienced in Ryanair’s online ticket booking system. Ryanair employees responded in his blog comments calling him an “idiot and a liar” and berating his choice of the WordPress blogging platform. Ryanair compound the fury by releasing an official statement saying “It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers…”).

Customer service now happens on a stage… Customers are networked. I’ve visited these themes before, with Chrysler and Ford. Read the seminal and prophetic book Cluetrain Manifesto for more of this wonderful stuff.

But rather than take the bait, I think this is completely in keeping with Ryanair’s PR policy and possibly everything they’ve done before this point.

This may well fall into the so-bad-it’s-good category. Undoubtedly, it’s a cheap shot response – in keeping with the airline’s established reputation for cheapness.

(As a staunch advocate of WordPress, I’m sure they can only be kidding…)

After the blog post, Travolution covered this and later Guardian, Telegraph, The Times and other news outlets. What’s the value of all that exposure – in exchange for some blog comments and a quick statement?

While I’m on it, did you know Ryanair don’t hire outside agencies for their advertising?

The Times had a feature about Ryanair’s advertising in December 2004, containing this gem from Paul Fitzsimmons, their then head of communications:

“We have a Wal-Mart approach to business: stack ’em high and sell in bulk,” said Fitzsimmons. “We are driven by price and we don’t need a bunch of ponytails in some ad agency to tell us how to build our brand.”

Then later:

Fitzsimmons admits the Ryanair ads are designed to spark controversy on the basis that “any negative perception of an ad is a publicity opportunity”.

So why should their online PR be any different? Talk about an integrated communications policy! It’s risky, for sure. For fans of the Cluetrain Manifesto, it certainly corresponds to the “authentic human voice”. But I can imagine it backfiring if their amiable tomfoolery does not translate across countries. For instance, now that CNN have covered it, will USA and other international readers appreciate the jokes?