Why #AskEddie is PR gold
The #AskEddie PR stunt on social media caused a bit of healthy debate among our staff.
Southern Rail is in so much hot water, with more than a year of constant delays, cancelled trains and industrial disputes. It is currently running a reduced service because of action by drivers from the Aslef union.
So when a 15-year-old work experience was apparently let loose on the brand's Twitter account, the company took a risk which could have backfired.
Account director Lesley McIvor explains why she loved it - unlike our crisis communications expert Chris Gilmour who thinks it was the worst move ever.
Over to Lesley...
I think this is great PR precisely BECAUSE Southern Rail gets so much bad press.
Look at its Twitter feed on any other day and you’ll find a barrage of complaints. But not when Eddie was in the driving seat.
Let’s be realistic – I seriously doubt this work experience teen was actually put “in charge” with free rein to say whatever he wanted. He was most likely shadowed by someone who was vetting his tweets.
But that’s the news angle the papers have taken and it’s a great story. It has given the company a wave of positive publicity which it badly needs.
It’s true that this worked well because few people would want to troll a 15-year-old. I’m quite sure Southern Rail predicted that, and that’s another reason this is a clever stunt.
It got coverage across the national press where it was hailed as “a hit”, “brilliant” and “hilarious”.
By the following morning young Eddie was being interviewed on the radio as the favourable publicity kept flowing.
And digital measurement tools (through Google Analytics) make one thing clear - #AskEddie has achieved some success in diverting attention from the strikes.
Furthermore it has helped to humanise Southern, which is essential if you’re trying to win over the public.
If you ask me, all of the above is quite a feat at a time when this company is plagued with so many big issues.
Tell me that’s not a PR win!
But don't forget to check out Chris Gilmour's counter argument here.