I had a very pleasant flight to London recently. I bought my ticket online in just ‘five clicks’. I received a couple of friendly email reminders about my upcoming trip. I even got a helpful warning about possible disruption to the Gatwick Express train service. All in all I'd give the experience an eight and a half out of ten. Hard to believe I was flying with Ryanair which for years seemed to have just two buyer personas in its marketing plan, - the ‘idiots’ and the ‘stupid’ as outspoken CEO, Michael O’Leary famously labelled his customers.

With many passengers seething about the airline, but flying anyway, Ryanair didn’t need to do customer engagement. Who cares if you are one of the most hated airlines in the world as long as the shareholders are happy?

Customer Service Overhaul
But then in September 2013 Ryanair announced it would take a friendlier approach to customers (followed soon after by a profit warning which may have prompted the U-turn on customer service). So far the signs are good. When impersonator Mario Rosenstock parodied the ‘nicer’ airline on TV, instead of taking legal action Ryanair posted the video to its website.

With a pared-back, easier to navigate website, complete with video and destination guides, is Ryanair's Michael O'Leary now loving content as much as he's loving his customers? The airline certainly looks to be taking content marketing seriously and is recruiting a “world class wordsmith” to join its growing digital team.

The wording of the recent job ad shows promising signs that Ryanair ‘gets’ content. The new content marketing executive will produce and publish fresh, new SEO friendly content on a daily basis with "clear calls to action on all copy". They will also "manage content marketing on paid, owned and earned media channels" and "promote new content on relevant social media channels". They will also be expected to measure content effectiveness.

Ryanair's Content Marketing Strategy
The new recruit's job will be much easier if the airline maintains its 'friendlier' approach. Content marketing is very effective at driving customer engagement but only if the company is serious about genuinely engaging with customers in a positive way from the top down.

With a 'put up, shut up and buy a scratch card' approach to customer service, no amount of content marketing will really make a difference. But the signs so far from Ryanair are promising. Michael O'Leary is even requesting ideas for customer service improvements via the “Tell MOL” feature on the www.Ryanair.com.

256 Media will be watching Ryanair closely to see how its content marketing plans unfold. With millions of customers every year Ryanair has an unrivalled database for content distribution. Happier customers might even be prepared to share the company's content.

If the airline has a clear content strategy backed up with stellar customer service it has a unique opportunity to become a major publisher in its own right. In time this could open new revenue streams for the business and prove what Southeast Airlines, who posted record profits for the third quarter 2013, knew all along - cheap fares PLUS good customer service make for very good business.

Karen Hesse Karen Hesse is Founder and CEO of 256, a multi-award winning global content marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland. A journalist and publisher she has over 25 years experience developing content strategy for brands.

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