Qantas delivers a master-class in PR! Here are 2 Indian brands that come close.

Qantas won the internet yesterday. Easily… hands down.

They shared a letter from a very young boy, along with their own CEO’s response to that letter.

The boy’s letter is rather unusual, but also hugely endearing. Where Qantas made it a victory for them is the way they responded to the boy.

The tweet (also used on Facebook) was, “Our competitors don’t normally ask us for advice…”. Why ‘our competitors’ for a boy? Because he had mentioned in this letter, “Please take me seriously”. And Qantas did, right at the beginning of their communication.

And that, “Naturally, there was only one way to respond: CEO to CEO” was a brilliant and delightful touch!

And then the full letter from Qantas CEO is another masterclass in PR. There is a technique in PR, when we media-train CXOs for interviews, called ‘bridging’. Bridging is when the spokesperson uses the question posed to him/her and, while acknowledging that question, cleverly uses that as a bridge to talk something he/she had prepared in context.

The letter bridges the boy’s queries beautifully with Qantas’ own narrative – safety, comfort and affordability. He is answering the boy as much as he is talking about Qantas!

And that bridge about ‘Project Sunrise’ would make you think, ‘This boy wrote a letter literally giving Qantas a chance to explain their new plan?’. But that’s how good PR is done, by connecting opportunities like this to build on your narrative.

And notice the fact that Qantas shared this entire exchange as a package of 4 images – 2 images of the boy’s letter, one of their CEO’s response in Qantas’ official stationery and a photo of the boy. The photo was perhaps unwarranted, given privacy issues and looking at how young the boy is, but it’s Qantas’ call.

This is phenomenally well done PR!

This reminds of 2 other instances from India.

One was as recent as January 2019, but not so widely shared or acknowledged.

A customer of Unacademy, from Kota (location was very visible), wrote to the founders that his Samsung S4 Mini wasn’t compatible with their app!

What should the founders do? They, after all, had a choice.

  1. Ignore him. He’s one among many to possibly have incompatible phones. If he was that keen, he should simply buy a different phone that’s compatible, could be the simple reasoning. Also, they could worry – if we do something, would others, like him, ask us too? After all, this is not a scalable help!
  2. Do something with their app. Make it work on older model phones like this one. But, is that something worth their tech. team’s time? They’d start by looking at the size of the use case. Is there a large number of people who may be using incompatible phones to access Unacademy and that they’d be missing out on, as potential users?
  3. Look at the boy’s ‘social clout’. That is, the number of followers, to see if doing something to him will help their PR. As of today, he has 83 followers on Twitter – not the kind of ‘influencer’ a brand would want to be associated with in any way.
  4. Get the man/boy a new, compatible phone.

Most founders would think and prioritize between the first 2. Gaurav Munjal opted for 3. The boy tweeted back with his gratitude.

This is the opposite of the Qantas’ flashy (legitimately earned flashy, not in a negative sense) PR effort. Gaurav’s effort was almost silent and completely subtle, almost like business-as-usual, even though it IS an outlier, possibly because talking too explicitly about it could create expectations for others to seek a similar help. And this is clearly not scalable!

The only thing they did was to merely retweet the boy’s thank-you tweet from their corporate handle! Completely unassuming!

The other example is from Hindustan Pencils, who manufacture brands like Natraj and Apsara Pencils.

Shweta Singh found that her young daughter was having trouble sharpening her pencils in school because she was left-handed and all sharpeners available in the market were meant for right-handers! I’m right handed, and can’t even understand of this problem, or what it actually means.

But when I get down to actually analysing what this problem is, I realize that it is mighty complex! If I hold the normal sharpener in my left hand and the pencil in my right hand, I naturally rotate the pencil clock-wise. But, if I hold the same sharpener in my right hand, and the pencil on my left hand, which direction would I need to rotate the pencil?

I’m sorry, my head hurts even thinking about this conundrum. Suffice to say, I fully realize my privilege of being right-handed in a world where 90% of the humans are like me.

Anyway, Shweta wrote to Hindustan Pencils.

Hindustan Pencils had a choice. Shweta, after all, wrote them a mail (email or snail mail, both are direct communication, without the world knowing about it). They could,

  1. Ignore the mail. They, after all, don’t need to create special exceptions to such outliers (who are 10% of all humans!).
  2. Write back to her and apologize that they couldn’t help her.
  3. Like the second option available for Gaurav Munjal – do something about their product(s).

They chose 3. They actually got their R&D to produce sharpeners meant for left-handed people and sent Shweta a few pieces! And, in a simple letter, promised to launch it in the market soon!

This is yet another example of legitimately earned PR. Wonderfully done!