Richard Branson Rises to the PR Occasion Again

Today we’re happy to bring you a guest post from friend of the site Shawn Paul Wood. Shawn is a PR and copywriting professional with more than 20 years’ experience in the field, and he spent 12 of those years as an on-air host and radio news director. He currently writes for HCK2 Partners in Dallas and contributes to Talent Zoo‘s Flack Me blog; his clients range from notable corporate giants to megachurches, entrepreneurs and even a couple of entertainment bigwigs. Follow him on Twitter!

We have all heard the aphorism, “All news is good news.” One of the champions of that familiar saying is Sir Richard Branson, social media “influencer” and CEO of all things Virgin, who put the sentiment to the test when his airline expanded its routes to Scotland this week.

After appearing at the airliner door and traipsing down the stairs to the tarmac, he took his position on a literal promo platform to discuss the plane’s maiden voyage to Edinburgh. He then lifted his kilt so as to better display a new, um, marketing slogan: “Stiff Competition.

As you can see in the picture, Branson was quite amused with himself (though we’re less impressed because it wasn’t that cold outside). The sly billionaire pulled one over on the leering press yet again — but this time he’s prompted a backlash.

The UK’s Daily Mail ran with the headline “Is this his tackiest PR stunt yet?” while also mentioning the airline’s reported losses of 135 million pounds (roughly $207 million USD) over the past two years. Coincidence? Possibly, but his shareholders’ and consumers’ opinions of his antics matter a great deal to his company.

The guy is a marketing wunderkind and is not afraid to invest in flippant ideas — but is “all news [really] good news?” Perhaps this stunt will prove it once and for all for Branson. Granted, I don’t think he will lose any sleep over the issue because he clearly enjoys gawking at the headlines. But if I were him, I’d be more concerned with the fact that I left the aforementioned shareholders and consumers to gawk at an ROI much, much smaller than my other…assets.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.