How to write a letter of complaint – part 2

The saga continues. Loyal readers amongst you may remember our blog from the end of last month on a rather awesome letter of complaint that addressed the problem of Virgin’s plane food. Those slightly less loyal readers may have seen it across other news sources, and, even, if you were lucky, the BBC 10 o’clock news.

But the identity of the writer of the letter has always remained a mystery. Until now. (Or at least fairly recently.) Today we found out, with thanks to Brand Republic, that one Oli Beale is the author of this fine piece of literature.

And as it turns out, Oli is a creative working for agency WCRS. Now Virgin are actually with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R, but one can’t help wondering whether or not they’ve done a bit of a deal on the side with WCRS. Thus spake the rumours of the internet, anyhow, with sites like Holy Moly murmuring that the letter was a fix. Virgin, in turn, have said that it was a genuine letter, as has Mr Beale. But they’ve still managed to wrangle a lot of press coverage from it.

Is this, then, simply an inspired bit of spin that ingeniously inverts a damning report of food standards upon Virgin’s fleet? The letter got covered in national newspapers, broadcast news, and all over the internet, after all. And what better way to reinforce Virgin’s happy, personalised image with the final twist that Branson himself called up the letter-writer to apologise?

On the other hand, Virgin are openly admitting that their food is essentially an indiscriminate and indeterminable mixture of custard, mustard and the colour beige.

Brand Republic readers - people typically within the marketing and communications industries who should really know what they’re talking about – on the whole think the letter has worked as positive PR. 58% of the 50 people that voted online (see the graph above) agreed that it was positive, with 24% thinking it was negative and the remaining 18% unsure.

Cannier readers pointed out that the letter handily coincides with Virgin’s TV ad campaign for its 25th anniversary, and that the letter broke big the day after it announced an across-the-board pay freeze.

With all that coverage that in spite of the grossness of the food brought smiles and laughter to at least everyone that I came across and read about, it seems that the old adage that no PR is bad PR has never been truer.

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