Last week it was reported that Ryanair’s ‘be nicer’ campaign is working, with passenger numbers on the low budget airline rising to record levels. Which is as it should be. Good customer service underpins great businesses.But for media watchers it is also a bit of shame. This is definitely the end of Michael O’Leary’s mischief making. “If I’d known being nicer to customers was going to work so well, I’d have done it ages ago,” he’s quoted as saying,
Mr O’Leary built the no-frills brand by creating headlines from brash, borderline offensive proclamations. Typically, he is quoted in 2013 as saying “It keeps being peddled [that] Ryanair’s the most hated brand. What the hell are you surveying? 99% of people don’t think what’s my favourite brand, they look for the cheapest fares.”
Ryanair was what it said on the tin. Cheap as chips, there and back and don’t expect any special attention – and if they could they would charge you for going to the toilet along the way.
He gave the media what they wanted. Colour, personality, controversy and a bit of fun. Who needed advertising, when the publicity machine was producing column centimetres that stretched from Dublin to Krakow.
But while it worked for a time, long term was not good for the business. Is all good publicity really good publicity? The perception created by the acres of stories generated by Mr O’Leary’s outspoken comments was ultimately damaging and as the low-cost air travel industry became more competitive, and customers given more choice, Ryanair was forced to change.
Good PR has to be strategic and sometimes building the right reputation through the media needs time and patience, not a wham bam headline, however good that might feel at the time.