#QantasLuxury: How to manage the fallout

This morning around 220 media outlets have covered the #qantasluxury debacle. It’s also certainly given social media and PR bloggers something to write about. If you buy the “all publicity is good publicity” line – then the campaign was a success.

Image Credit: @Kellulz, via The Australian

But you shouldn’t buy that line… because it’s dumb. The good thing about media coverage in traditional media outlets is that they’ll typically be interested in objectivity – which for them means getting both sides of the story (though in many of the cases below, this hasn’t happened).

Which means talking to Qantas. Which means that all publicity represents an opportunity to promote your brand.

A better phrasing of the rule is that “All publicity is only as good as you make it,” or “Good publicity promotes your brand.”

And while its possible that Qantas has strategically immolated itself on Twitter so that it can get this opportunity, that seems a little unlikely. Every story opens by bagging out the campaign. It wasn’t a well thought out move on the airline’s part.

Here’s a sampling of responses…

The Age – Qantas makes a hash of tweet campaign
The Age – Qantas Luxury – not having to face flak
The Australian (Media Blog) – Qantas Twitter Fiasco Launches Spoofs
Courier Mail – Qantas in First Class Twitter Fail
Courier Mail – Miffed passengers take tweet revenge
Reuters – Epic Fail for Qantas Twitter Competition
NineMSN (who clearly don’t understand apostrophes and words ending with s) – Qantas’s Epic PR Fail
The Hindustan Times – Qantas does a PR self goal dive
The Hong Kong Standard – Qantas spirals into PR infamy
The Mirror – UK – Qantas twitter hashtag campaign backfires as unhappy customers hijack it

The Reuters story is especially important, because it feeds content to newsrooms all over the globe – and that was bad for Qantas, because they haven’t got any comments from the airline. PR disaster management 101 is getting your messages across to the newswires.

What these stories are reporting is the tongue in cheek quip that Qantas fired back in response to the flood of responses – and while the quip kind of worked on Twitter, when it runs in a news story it just makes you look dumb. There’s a PR rule about never saying anything on camera you don’t want taken out of context… it works on social media too.

“But Qantas put on a brave face, taking to Twitter again to quip on Tuesday, “at this rate our #QantasLuxury competition is going to take years to judge.”


“Qantas tried to laugh off the Twitter backlash later in the day, tweeting that it would take some time to judge the competition as the responses flooded in at a rate of 20 a minute.”

That doesn’t look like a company that is taking this crisis seriously.

But they are handling the fallout as best they can. When they get to speak that is… This line isn’t bad:

“A large number of our customers were disrupted and inconvenienced by the recent industrial action and fleet grounding. However, services have returned to normal and our customers can book flights with absolute confidence that they will not be disrupted by industrial action.”

That’s great. If they get that message, for free, into hundreds of stories it’s at least a silver lining.

Sadly it came after a few lines defending the campaign, and the prize… these aren’t great lines, because they show just how much Qantas doesn’t really get the whole social media thing, and gives a bit of insight into why this was botched… and a few media outlines are just running these quotes, not the paragraph above.

“We receive positive feedback from customers via social media about the Qantas premium inflight products. Over the past 12 months we have conducted a number of competitions for customers, fans and followers on our Twitter feed (@qantasairways), giving away these products,” the spokeswoman said.

“We launched the #qantasluxury competition as part of our ongoing social media strategy. The competition is giving away Qantas First Class pyjamas and amenity kits and a number of people have legitimately entered the competition.”

There’s no humility there. No acknowledgment that they got this massively wrong. Saying “a number” is the most deliberately vague statement ever issued, and at this point the positive entries in the competition are doubtless from professional competition enterers, or the families of Qantas board members.

Perhaps the funniest thing is that this move comes just two days after Qantas hired four full time social media people to manage the online fallout following the lockout.