Air NZ’s ‘Dear Listener’ response shakes up media relations

14 May

In case you have missed it today, the ‘Dear Listener‘ response from Rob Fyfe at Air New Zealand has, if nothing else, demonstrated the shake up in media relations and organisational advocacy that has existed for some time but, until today at least, has been mostly invisible in New Zealand.

The viral spread of the response was rapid thanks to the share facility Air NZ added to its site and most of the tweets simply carried the unedited 140-comment supplied by Air NZ. Reaction from the deaf community was mixed, some felt it inappropriate while others observed that Sign is an official New Zealand language, so why not? I suspect that the debate around appropriateness will continue for some time and I also suspect this debate will be used by mainstream media as a means to distract from the central story – that Air NZ felt the publication had got it wrong and found its own way to highlight its point of view to a wider public.

One thing is certain though. An influential, leading CEO using social media to advocate for his organisation in response to mainstream media coverage he considers unfair allows the shape of media relations to change here in New Zealand in the same way it has begun to change over the last few years elsewhere.

I did contact The Listener to ascertain their reaction to the video but was told they ‘had not yet decided on their response but they hoped to have done so by the end of the day’. It is now just before 5pm on Friday and my promised call back (I advised I’d be blogging about it) has yet to materialise. All a bit late in terms of responding to online coverage.

The Listener is one of New Zealand’s most respected publications and Air New Zealand one of our most respected companies. In this particular head-to-head, Air New Zealand has the stolen the march in its use of social media to advocate and protect its reputation, while The Listener needs a fast heads up on the fact that their reputation is just as vulnerable in this environment. The fact that the publication falls under ‘mainstream media’ does not exempt them in this regard.

And all practitioners, whether used to working online or offline, need to take note of the change as well.

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