Here's what I'd #AskEddie: why does Southern think exploiting a kid is the way out of its crisis?

I was infuriated when I heard that some 15-year-old had been let loose on the Twitter feed of such a troubled brand.

Gilmour: not charmed by Southern's social media sensation #AskEddie, as he stands in cattle truck en route to work
Gilmour: not charmed by Southern's social media sensation #AskEddie, as he stands in cattle truck en route to work

In my opinion, Southern is the UK's worst rail franchise, plagued by unreliability and union disputes.

If there is a business more in crisis mode in the entire country, I can’t think of it.

Everything it does or says needs to be carefully thought out and considered because it’s going to be examined by the countless commuters upset on a daily basis, the regulator who is looking at how the business is run, and the two unions currently at war with Southern.

And the management think it’s acceptable to put a 15-year-old work experience in charge of one of their main communications channels? Is his girlfriend getting to run the signalling? 

The only reason there’s not a huge backlash is because nobody wants to be the bullying troll who attacks a child.

From a messaging perspective, it’s just so wrong and undermines any arguments Southern makes that it knows what it is doing and that we should trust its judgement in the union disputes.

I think this is the worst bit of PR I’ve seen for a long time. Ill-thought out and strategically as wrong as you can get. It’s beyond parody – I’d sack the head of comms for it.


Chris Gilmour, director of Beattie Communications

With my day job handling crisis communications - and as a regular Southern commuter - I think this is the worst bit of PR I’ve seen for a long time.

Ill-thought out and strategically as wrong as you can get. It’s beyond parody - I’d sack the head of comms for it.

This is going to backfire and end up somewhere on a ‘how not to do crisis comms’ workshop.

And considering the news of Southern’s £13.4m fine for failure to run services, I’d say this is a cynical ploy to cover bad news.

You can analyse Twitter engagement all you like. 

The majority of the people in love with Eddie are unlikely to be Southern commuters.

Customers aren’t going to feel warm and fuzzy about the company because of Eddie. The service is still going to be dreadful tomorrow.

The only way to improve how people feel is to get the actual service back on track.

Exploiting a kid when you’re in a vicious staff dispute with two unions is poor judgement at best, cynical at worst.

Southern’s approach shows utter contempt for its customers.

Twitter is one of its most important channels of communication, but it barely acknowledges the daily questions and frustrations of passengers.

Yet it’s okay to let a teenager ramble on about all sorts of inane, irrelevant nonsense at peak times

People want to know: Why is my train late/cancelled? Why are the toilets filthy? Why have you been fighting with unions for two years and why has Chris Grayling not pulled your franchise?

Forget serious answers to serious questions and have a recipe for fajitas – it’s an absolute nonsense.

Chris Gilmour is director of Beattie Communications

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