I can’t work out who first got hold of the Virgin complaint letter but its all over the web with a vengeance. Take a look at the amount of people sharing it on Twitter in the last few minutes alone. Even Stephen Fry is Tweeting. Check out the amount of comments from The Times blog and and Yahoo!. Its bound to be in the papers tomorrow!
But this is PRMediaBlog. You haven’t come here for a reheat of what’s everywhere else on the web. The key question is ”what should Virgin’s PR team do to respond?”
Paul Charles is their Director of Comms. Very online savvy and a former client or mine at a dotcom start-up back in 2000. He doesn’t need me sticking my nose in, but as he’ll be busy right now, I thought we could talk amongst ourselves. Here’s what I’d advise if he was my client now, would love your suggestions also.
– If you Google ‘Virgin ‘Complaint’ you find that virtually the whole page is links to stories about ‘that letter’ or seperate negative discussions. Virgin should buy Google AdWords that link anyone who is sniffing around for that story, is planning to blog about it or who has a similar problem with Virgin, towards a landing page that has the company’s response. It should be written in plain and accessible language, not legal-speak and be as sharable as possible.
– They need to agree a line that responds to the specific issues in this letter but also the broader concerns it raises. They need someone who can go and articulate that line in an accessible, human and humorous way. Virgin is a humourous and accessible brand and they need somebody to be the human face of that in social media. This may or may not be the same person that they are putting up to handle broadcast bids on it.
– That person could then respond to blog comments, post on the stories that are getting big reaction on Yahoo! and Timesonline, may be even contact the authors of those blogs and ask for an update to be added with their side of the story. This could include a link back to the landing page mentioned above, a short video response – basically whatever they feel comfortable with.
– Its also worth Tweeting a short view. Targeting those people who have already Tweeted, may be prioritisng those with over 200 followers or who have some demonstrable Twitter influence. Never underestimate the power of the Retweet.
The most important thing is for a brand to learn from these situations once the dust has settled. It’s always nice in a storm like this to have loyal customers who step foward and defend the brand unprompted. It may well be that this happens in the next day or so but its always an idea to grow and support this group of people.
Virgin should look closely to involve people in its brand online, through getting the views of regular flyers and making them feel part of the brand. So, when it’s attacked, they feel compelled to defend it.
These are my topline thoughts – would love yours!
UPDATE: Virgin Airlines’ Director of Comms, Paul Charles, responds below