Southern Rail hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory recently. From disgruntled commuters facing regular disruption to their daily travel, to the barrage of social media abuse and bad press coverage, public perceptions surrounding Southern Rail are pretty darn negative.
Of course, the train operator could just find a way to resolve the strikes that have hampered its network for so long.
However, in the absence of that magical moment anytime soon, some social media success would probably do plenty to help the Southern Rail image.
Step forward Eddie, a 15-year-old work experience intern who was asked by Southern Rail to man its Twitter account. The Telegraph is hailing him as “the work experience boy who saved Southern Rail” and while that might be a little bit of a reach, his work on Twitter certainly did the company a whole lot of good in terms of positive PR.
Eddie spent his first few rounds of social time just providing the usual company line on various train-related issues. And then suddenly he was given free reign to tweet himself.
So, he opened the betting with “Hi, Eddie here! Here on work experience and ready to answer your questions!” Smiley emoji. Cue queries such as “Why do English men always wear socks and sandals on holiday?” and “Hi Eddie! Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?” Eddie’s game, honest and authentic responses soon saw the hashtag #AskEddie trending on Twitter.
So, how did a 15-year-old boy repair the reputation of the train operator labelled Britain’s worst?
1. He was authentic. Oh Twitter loves authenticity, we all know that by now. Fake replies and overly PR-d responses are met with some hostility, while being yourself wins every time.
2. He was funny. If you’re going to do well on Twitter then you need to be informative or you need to be entertaining – or both, of course. Eddie firmly fell into the latter category and proved that you don’t always need to be ‘on message’ to create a PR dream.
3. He had an answer for everything. Nothing could outfox this boy, not even tweets accusing him of being a Russian hackbot. “I don’t even know any Russians. I’m a person, I’m 15-years-old, I’m here, and I don’t think a Russian hackbot would like Doritos.”
4. He didn’t shy away from the tough questions. From “my wife’s just left me – how long do I have to wait before I join Match.com?” to “Shall I have chicken fajitas or chicken Thai green curry?” (Eddie said fajitas).
5. He was honest. For example, “Can you drive a train?” “No, not yet. I am 15.”
6. He’s all about equality. Big brands don’t do that well at embracing equality unless they’re very trite or advertising clichés. But Eddie did: “I don’t think [there will ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark] but you never know, there could be a girl that can.”
So, there’s a lot that we can learn from Eddie when it comes to social media triumphs.
Although I’d never recommend anyone start thinking like a 15-year-old boy when it comes to PR, we can all take a leaf out of Eddie’s book and learn how much it means in the online world to be honest, enthusiastic and ready for anything.
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