IMAGINE yourself as the head of PR at a well-known company.
Your boss, the CEO, is a tiresomely pugnacious type who has never quite learned to keep his mouth shut.
For good reason, you get nervous when he suddenly announces that he will take over the company's Twitter account to do a live Q+A with Twitter users.
You read, with trepidation, his response to a post by one female user, whose photo is visible.
"Nice pic," your boss enthuses on Twitter. Then, deciding that his enthusiasm might seem a tad ambiguous, he adds: "Phwoaaarr!" Followed by his initials: "MOL."
By now, your head will be resting in your hands. You can already see it all. The damaging headlines. The consumer boycott. The sharp fall in the company's share price.
By the time your boss has described himself in the following glowing terms - "Call me genius, Jesus, Superman, or odious little **** ...", you will be probably crouching on the nearest window ledge.
Ah, but this is Ryanair. They do things differently there.
The 'MOL' is Michael O'Leary. He really doesn't care if you think he's an odious little ****. Just so long as you book a (expletive deleted) seat on his (expleted deleted) airline.
Back in 1991, Gerald Ratner wiped £500 million off the value of his jewellery company's shares with one magnificently frank if ill-advised speech. You may remember it: the £4.95 cut-glass sherry decanters that were "total crap"; the earrings that were "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long".
It became known as doing a Ratner - the sort of gaffe that could wreck your career or your company's fortunes.
Ratner, however, is but a playful innocent next to Ryanair and the boorish O'Leary. Together they've done so many Ratners that it seems to fly in the face of all reason that the airline is still thriving. It once teasingly suggested a 'fat tax' for overweight customers. Who cared if overweight customers were offended? All that mattered was that some publicity had been generated.
Recently, Ryanair apologised after staff at Dublin airport charged a deeply upset male customer £160 to change his flight after his family had died in a fire.
There's no doubt that Ryanair has made cheap air travel more widely accessible. Pity about the methods the company has sometimes used to win publicity.
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