PUBLIC RELATIONS AWARDS 2000: Consultancy & Individual - The Fleishman-Hillard International Communications Award. European Communicator of the Year



Stelios Haji-Ioannou

He's an entrepreneur, a brand ambassador, he likes his publicity stunts, and is always on the look out for innovative new ideas to broaden his empire. No, it's not Sir Richard Branson, but easyJet's 33 year-old founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

Comparisons with the Virgin king are inevitable at first glance, but Stelios is in a different mould. The son of a Greek shipping tycoon, he studied at the London School of Economics and has an MSc in shipping trade and finance from the City University Business School.

Stelios founded his first venture when he was 25, Stelmar Tankers, with a pounds 5 million helping hand from his father, and three years later he started low-cost no-frills airline easyJet. Under the umbrella of easyGroup, whose businesses aim to make the most of the internet, he has since set up internet cafe chain easyEverything, and

The distinctive orange is already as recognisably 'easy' as Marlboro red and Tiffany aqua, and this consistency also applies to communicating the brand philosophy of straightforward products that offer consumers value for money.

All his ventures are backed with massive publicity campaigns - the casually-dressed Stelios comes across as being charismatic and approachable, and is unafraid of being highly visible where his launches are concerned.

He positions himself as a man of the people, a spirit of enterprise fighting for the consumer. The fact that so many people perceive Stelios himself as being 'no frills' - open, direct and fair - is a measure of how much he has succeeded in communicating this.

Stelios defends his brand to the hilt and, like Branson, he also likes stealing a march on competitor BA, specifically its low-cost arm Go. One of his most legendary stunts was buying ten seats on Go's inaugural flight and filling them with easyJet staff in bright orange boiler suits , offering other passengers tokens for free flights on easyJet.

The easyJet boss also understands how the internet is now pivotal to corporate communications. He posts an informal, enthusiastic and sometimes cheeky monthly message on his web site, but he's no easyJoke.

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