Image by Gulltaggen via Flickr on a Creative Commons licence

No one could ever accuse Virgin Boss Richard Branson of missing a PR opportunity.

After learning of the loss of its West Coast mainline franchise to rivals First Group, the Virgin PR machine swung into action with a strong, online campaign to urge the Government to re-think the bidding process.

Branson launched an on-line petition, securing support from many high-profile supporters including Jamie Oliver, Lord Sugar and Joey Barton. The aim is to achieve 100,000 signatures on a Government’s on-line petition that will lead to the issue being considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Branson also put himself forward for broadcast interviews to highlight his belief that the Government has got it wrong.

As part of the campaign, Branson’s team blogged a list of 50 reasons why people should sign the petition.

They include:

  • 60,000 people want to work for us, from over 30 different countries, and we’re always looking for the best people to do so
  • We didn’t have to be an Olympic partner to provide a gold medal winning service for athletes and customers alike.

The PR world is buzzing with opinion on Branson and his latest publicity campaign, with many agreed that the entrepreneur has yet again proven that attack can be the best form of defence. One stated:
‘It is a great example of why it is necessary to constantly be promoting and protecting your reputation. When you most need it, it pays off to have built serious insulation with the press, stakeholders and customers.”

However, whilst the campaign has no doubt proved successful in achieving its aim of securing publicity and attracting many thousands of signatories, some commentators have urged caution when launching campaigns online.

Several PR experts have voiced concern that some of Virgin’s corporate messages listed in the ’50 reasons’ as highlighted above, are not as effective when broadcast on-line.

One warned: “Large corporate companies have to learn to adapt their PR to the digital world.”

Corporate messages that sit well in press releases, official statements and company literature do not always translate well on-line so it is important to consider how on-line campaigns can complement more traditional methods of PR.

In particular look at how corporate messages and mission statements can be adapted for the digital world and it is crucial to consider how your company would respond to any adverse on-line criticism your campaign may attract.