Yesterday I was asked to comment on the Ryanair PR fiasco story on Channel 5 News. You can view the full link here.
Channel 5 wanted a PR expert to talk about what the story meant for Ryanair from a reputation perspective, both now and in the future. My take on the story is as follows.
Ryanair are in trouble for the last minute cancellations of flights over the next 6 weeks, due to having scheduling issues with pilot holidays. Problems initially began to emerge on Friday, when customers began to receive notification of cancellations by text message. Rather than developing a swift customer service response in the immediate aftermath, Ryanair let the information trickle out organically, leaving an information vacuum to develop. As the number of affected customers began to rise, the story continued gained traction in the media.
Famously unapologetic, controversial Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary finally held his hands up a full four days later, after being doorstepped by Sky News. O'Leary did the right thing to apologise, however, addressing the issue so belatedly left him on the back foot.
This is clearly a corporate own goal for Ryanair. However, I would argue that it is not quite a 'Ratner moment' just yet. (Gerald Rather wiped £500m off his share price overnight when he described his company's jewellery as complete cr*p.) Is the damage irreparable? Not necessarily. O'Leary himself said that with only 2% of customers affected, this represents a tiny percentage of their overall revenues. But although the cost of compensation will total £17.7million, critics are saying that the cost to their reputation will be even higher.
Certainly for those members of the public who have had holidays, honeymoons and weddings cancelled, this will leave a bitter taste in their mouth. This is not the first time Ryanair have been on the wrong side of public and media opinion, leaving me to question whether their current communications policy is sustainable? If they don't take heed of the hard lessons they've learned about engaging swiftly and positively with customers, they risk allowing their competitors to steal a march on them and even more damage to their business in the future.
If you want to talk about reactive crisis communications, or planning for a crisis then contact me.
Here is a 5 minute sample of an hour long live interview I did, talking about the value of PR.
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I wrote for TVB Europe, celebrating ten inspirational women in the broadcast industry