The Daily Mail reported a horror story this week in which Ryanair passengers were allegedly forced to endure more than 10 hours locked in a plane on the tarmac without air conditioning or any refreshments and that passengers had to eventually call the Police to help them escape the aircraft (Stevens, 2014). Ryanair quickly refuted these claims, managing the negative press through their public relations team (Ryanair, 2014) but not without some damage to their reputation. This example demonstrates the importance of a good public relations team in ensuring the continued positive reputation of a brand.
Kotler and Armstrong (2014, pp.472-473) describe public relations in a broader sense as another channel of advertising, explaining that as well as damage limitation in the example above, it can be used to raise awareness of products and services through media channels without additional advertising costs and help to build a positive association and reputation with customers.
Indeed, many authors observe the longstanding similarities between the two paradigms and note the shift from public relations and advertising as distinct disciplines, to both being essential elements of the marketing mix (Davila, 2012). The use of public relations versus traditional forms of marketing appears to be on the rise with spending up by more than $3 billion US Dollars since 2010 (Torossian, 2011).
Technology companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft frequently employ the use of their public relations teams to raise awareness of their brand and to promote their values and the value of their products to consumers. For example, when Google launched the ‘Google Plus’ social network, access was by invitation only and the product was surrounded in mystery following a series of planned information leaks aimed at generating excitement (Siegler, 2011). Although arguably, the site has not been as successful as Google would have hoped, the public relations teaser campaign certainly had the desired effect by creating speculation from the media about the latest offering from the technology giant.
However, use of public relations in technology businesses is certainly not universal and many organisations are only just starting to see the benefit of employing a public relations team and switching from traditional forms of advertising. Torrosian (2011) states that “image is everything” in business and that it is the role of public relation professionals to manage the perception of a business, particularly in the digital age where positive and negative messages can travel much faster.
Eyrich, Padman and Sweetser (2008) discuss the management of social media as a public relations tool for promoting a business and this is certainly something which many technology fims have been quick to adopt to benefit the reputation of their business. However, Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) caution against the over-use of one tool such as social media over another and advise that it should be considered one of a number of channels to use as part of a blended approach to public relations. Neglecting one channel at the expense of another could cause as much reputational damage as not using public relations at all.
Davila, R. (2012) ‘Can PR and advertising play nicely together? 5 tips for agency integration’, Public Relations Tactics, 19(7), pp. 17, Ebscohost. [Online]. Available from: http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=88427131&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 23 February 2014).
Eyrich, N., Padman, M. & Sweetser, K. (2008) ‘PR practitioners’ use of social media tools and communication technology’, Public Relations Review, 34(4), pp. 412–414, ScienceDirect. [Online]. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.09.010 (Accessed: 23 February 2014).
Kaplan, A. & Haenlein, M. (2010) ‘Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media’, Business Horizons, 53(1), pp.59–68, ScienceDirect. [Online]. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003 (Accessed: 23 February 2014).
Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (2014) Principles of Marketing, 15th Edition. London: Pearson Education Ltd.
Ryanair (2014) Ryanair’s Statement on FR8347. [Online]. Available from: http://www.ryanair.com/en/news/ryanair-s-statement-on-fr-8347-14th-february-2014 (Accessed: 23 February 2014).
Seagler, M. (2011) Google+ Project: It’s Social, It’s Bold, It’s Fun, And It Looks Good — Now For The Hard Part. [Online]. Available from: http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/28/google-plus/ (Accessed: 23 February 2014).
Stevens, J. (2014) Mutiny on flight FR8347: Ryanair passengers call the police as they demand ‘food, water and the right to leave the plane’ during ELEVEN HOUR delay at Stansted. [Online]. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2564683/Ryanair-passengers-Stansted-Airport-forced-call-police-refused-food-water-right-leave-aircraft-11-HOUR-delay.html (Accessed: 23 February 2014).
Torossian, R. (2011) Public Relations Advantage Over Marketing & Advertising: Image Is Everything! [Online]. Available from: http://www.businessinsider.com/public-relations-advantage-over-marketing-and-advertising-image-is-everything–2011-10 (Accessed: 23 February 2014).