Flack on Friday: Ryanair's O'Leary a 'master of PR', BuzzFeed's measure of success, not taking the piss at Glastonbury

Flack was hanging out at PR360 this week, hearing Ryanair's Michael O'Leary described as a "master of PR" in one of the conference sessions, and enjoying a no punches pulled introduction to Thursday's Global Awards ceremony.

Michael O'Leary, master of PR

Robin Kiely, the head of comms at low-cost airline Ryanair, gave attendees at a session at PRWeek's PR360 Global PR Festival this week an insight into how the brand has softened its reputation and won back customer trust in recent years.

Part of this process has been quotable, colourful chief executive Michael O'Leary ("short of committing murder, bad publicity sells more seats" is one of PRWeek's favourite quotes) taking more of a back seat, and stepping back from always being the face of the airline.

O'Leary understood the benefit of doing this – in fact Kiely described him as a "master of PR", a phrase that hasn't been used that often with O'Leary. In fact, a Google search for his name and that search term produced a mere six results this morning (seven by the time you read this).

Not that the airline chief's new, laid-back persona has mellowed him completely; Kiely was asked how often he knew what O'Leary was going to say next. "Oh, the only time is when his football team Manchester City has done well, and mine [Liverpool] has done badly," he says.

As an aside; Flack notes that Kiely's session finished exactly on schedule, and that no baggage was lost.

JHB wows the crowd

Journalist and radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer proved a lively host of the PRWeek Global Awards last night, where big winners included Golin, PepsiCo and Weber Shandwick.

"Is there anyone in this room who thinks they could dig Ken Livingstone out of this hole today?" she asked the attendees of the former London Mayor, whose PR strategy yesterday included hiding in a toilet. It was a rhetorical question, but anyone who could surely deserves a medal of some sort...

She also had strong words for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump and his Republican Party. "From George Bush to Donald Trump as president – you can really see why Republicans don't believe in evolution," she quipped. 

Some of the biggest chuckles came from her comments about the recent story of PJS's celebrity sex scandal, currently tied up (the story, not the celebrity) in a Supreme Court injunction appeal battle, but alas Flack forgets what exactly Hartley-Brewer said on the matter, so cannot print it.

BuzzFeed's measure of success

Not for the first time at a PR conference, the topic of measurement and the relative lack thereof in the profession came up at PR360. Speaking about storytelling to promote brands, Vodafone's head of comms strategy and research said it "isn’t necessarily going to translate into money in the shops... this isn’t going to lead to necessarily a 10 per cent increase in sales".

With that in mind, consider this from Simon Low, director of brand partnerships for Europe at BuzzFeed. He talked about the media outlet's cooking videos, which can attract tens of millions of views on Facebook and other platforms, and have recently been sponsored by brands including Diageo tipple Baileys.

"The great thing about this if you are Baileys and you have sponsored a piece of content, you cannot make these recipes without buying a bottle of Baileys and they haven’t mentioned it yet but there must be a good ROI for sales of the product," Low said, hopefully.

Low also gave PR360 attendees a sneak preview of what we can expect next on BuzzFeed - more home improvement, DIY and home craft videos.

All in a day's work

What's the strangest thing that your PR job has led to you doing? To help build a campaign around the firm's 30th anniversary celebrations last year, Vodafone's Amanda Andrews described her team spending time scouring eBay to purchase mid-1980s mobile phones for a spoof ad.

But, she went on to say, what really made the campaign work was securing the involvement of David 'The Hoff' Hasselhoff to give the story a distinctly 80s feel. "In markets like Greece, The Hoff is a sensation," Andrews hardly needed to say.

Don't take the piss out of this campaign

Finally, here's a campaign Flack is interested to see develop – Glastonbury Festival is running what it calls in a marketing email "a major campaign to discourage festival-goers from peeing on the land at Worthy Farm".

The email continues: "Urinating on the ground at Glastonbury causes toxic pollution of the water table, which affects local wildlife and fish. It really could threaten the future of the festival. We’re asking you to design a logo for our campaign. The creator of the chosen design will win two tickets to Glastonbury Festival 2016, plus accommodation for two." Entries close on 9 May.

Good luck. The pride of the Pee-R industry is at stake here...

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