Why PR and social media don’t mix – Qantas culture #fail

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A Qantas spokeswoman said there was “no suggestion it’s come from our aircraft“.

That’s PR.

At the same time, no actually quite a way ahead of that time, Facebook readers already knew that the engine that exploded and fell into Indonesian houses and parks was from Qantas. They didn’t even have to speak Indonesian, they just had to look at the photos.

Debris420-420x0

That’s social media.

When an engine exploded on QF32, a Qantas A380 heading out of Singapore, their PR machine swung into full mode of mouthpiece to send the messages and defend the organisation. That’s how we’ve traditionally viewed PR, so no real surprises.

In the meantime, in fact not “in the meantime” but a little ahead of the Qantas auto-responders, Indonesian Albert Fan among others on Facebook had already posted photos of the Qantas parts and how they had landed in parks and ripped apart a house wall. All with the nice new modernised “flying kangaroo”.

Of course a single swallow doesn’t make Spring. But it typifies it. I know Brian Solis and other PR thought leaders have views which eclipse the PR autoresponder role, but the example shows that culture plays a big role. Qantas is typically arrogant and self-righteous, but this time social media has really hung them out to dry.

What’s the answer to these cultural roadblocks, in this case to using social media to connect and inform people – as part of PR?

I think it’s the old story. You educate and motivate and train the ones who are willing to change – you do your best – and you sack the rest. There’s a bit of culture change going on at Qantas, but clearly it hasn’t touched on PR yet!

How do you think Qantas missed the Facebook photos – pure arrogance or just incompetence?

What’s the hardest thing for PR to change to accommodate a social media participation?

2 COMMENTS

  1. I absolutely agree with the gist of Walter’s post here. As it has been understood and practiced traditionally, PR and the social media don’t mix.

    I believe, however, that PR can and has evolved and that online PR has opened new venues of synergy and collaboration between the social media and the PR role. The best example that comes to mind is the case of Southwestern Airlines (USA), a really pro-active company in this endeavour.

    Thank you Walter for an insightful post.

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