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Occasionally, particularly on a Friday, we like to bring you something a little different.
This week an uplifting story caught our attention which showed that sometimes the best PR can come from the simplest of tasks - like responding to a letter from a young fan of your organisation.
That is what Qantas did and it turned out to be a masterclass in reputation management.
The Australian airline’s tweet about a letter it had received from a 10-year-old boy who had set up his own airline and wanted some advice has gone viral since it was posted on Twitter on Tuesday (11/3).
At the time of writing, it has generated 1,800 comments, 28,000 retweets and 77,000 likes.
Our competitors don't normally ask us for advice, but when an airline leader reached out, we couldn't ignore it.— Qantas (@Qantas) March 11, 2019
Naturally, there was only one way to respond: CEO to CEO. pic.twitter.com/JTFpzn5a6Y
And that’s not all. As the heart-warming tale gained momentum it also generated significant mainstream media coverage.
Here are a few examples:
Boy, 10, writes incredibly sweet letter to airline CEO – and gets the best reply Daily Mirror
Airline CEO wins hearts as his response to 10-year-old seeking his advice goes viral The Indian Express
“I too was once a young boy”: Qantas CEO responds to charming letter from a 10-year-old who wants to start his own airline CBS News
Qantas responds to 10-year-old’s letter for advice on starting an airline The Independent
The story began with a handwritten letter to Qantas from Alex Jacquot – the self-appointed boss of Oceania Express - asking for advice on running his airline, as it was the school holidays and he had run out of ideas.
What made it go viral was the endearing and natural response from the Airline's CEO Alex Joyce.
Mr Joyce wrote: “I should say that I’m not typically in the business of giving advice to my competitors. Your newly appointed head of legal might have something to say about that too.
“But I’m going to make an exception on this occasion, because I too was once a young boy who was curious about flight and all its possibilities.”
Mr Joyce went on to answer some of the boy’s questions before inviting him to a meeting to discuss Project Sunrise, Qantas’ plans to fly non-stop between the east coast of Australia and London.
“I would like to invite you to a Project Sunrise meeting between myself, as the CEO of Australia’s oldest airline, and you, as the CEO of Australia’s newest airline,” he said.
“At this meeting we can compare notes on what it is like to run an airline.”
There seems little doubt that response would have delighted the young entrepreneur, but as we’ve shown earlier, it has also generated great coverage for the airline.
Boy's letter to Qantas boss for 'CEO advice' goes viral -- and top-notch corporate PR from the airline https://t.co/x3LTlmvJgR— Luke Baker (@BakerLuke) March 12, 2019
Qantas won the internet yesterday. They shared an unusual letter from a young boy, along with their own CEO's response to that letter. Where Qantas won is in the way they responded. Their message starts with, "Our competitors don't normally ask us for advice...". 1/5 pic.twitter.com/sC05cWNfUV— Karthik (@beastoftraal) March 12, 2019
Cynics may suggest Qantas has exploited the letter and turned it into a PR stunt.
And there is some truth in that as there is little doubt that it saw the opportunity.
But it is so well executed that few, if any, people will notice. The response sounds natural, is endearing and well-articulated and shows a human side to the brand.
Some will look at this as a mere PR stunt, but to the young boy, this probably means the world! Bravo Qantas for supporting and engaging tomorrow's leaders and innovators 👏👏👏👏 https://t.co/gCJr9m4KZg— Jaclyn 🇨🇦 (@jaclyn613) March 11, 2019
Huge respect to qantas CEO. Might be a PR strategy but i am well impressed and created a good positive impression of qantas— Epicurus (@Epicphilos) March 12, 2019
What most will see is the boss of a leading airline taking time out of his busy day to inspire a young boy to pursue his own dreams and ambitions. It feels kind. It feels generous. It suggests that the airline and its boss care and took the boy’s letter seriously.
And among those sentiments are some subtle brand messages. Safety is the airline’s number one priority, it is looking at a non-stop flight from Australia to London, and it is considering how to give people more space on its flights.
If it was a PR stunt, you have to say that it has worked perfectly because so many people have been talking about it. And, because it is aimed at a 10-year-old boy, it also has the advantage of sounding completely sincere.
Connecting with people while communicating the good things about your brand shows great PR, expertly delivered.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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