Why Qantas Eliminated Its Media-Relations Twitter Feed

It was interesting to see that the Australian airline Qantas shut down its media-facing Twitter account, as of today. The company announced the shutdown at least three times since late March, and now the account, @qantasMedia, is gone.

The account was launched specifically to communicate with the media and had 27,000 followers. But it had only a few hundred tweets in the two-and-a-half years since it was created, and the airline said in published reports that it was consolidating the account with its consumer-facing @QantasAirways account.

That account is much larger, with 114,000 followers and 24,000 tweets.

Qantas said there was a lot of overlap in the two Twitter accounts, and that it is redirecting its PR and media-relations efforts to a newsroom on its Web site.

However, the move seems counter-intuitive because it flies in the face of a nearly universal trend in media relations. PR pros look for opportunities to reach out and communicate with stakeholders through real-time social channels, which provide opportunities to manage stories, to establish valuable relationships with members of the media and to modulate messages depending on circumstances.

Making journalists proactively root around on a Web page seems like a retreat to passivity, and misses an opportunity to push important PR-related information out into the community to whom it would be most relevant.

Interestingly, the comments section of some of the published reports offered the most actionable observations about the Qantas move.

  • As questionable as it seems, the airline indicated that it had a specific business purpose for shutting down its media-oriented Twitter account: overlap with its consumer-facing account.
  • For one commenter, it was nothing more than an admission that its PR strategy wasn’t working.
  • The counter-intuitive nature of the move is a chance for other brands to take a look at what’s working rather than follow the conventional approach.
  • With social media evolving so fast, the rules of engagement change fast as well. Does this signal a new approach?

At any rate, Qantas isn’t a stranger to social-media controversies. Late in 2011, it grounded its fleet in connection with a labor dispute and social media exploded with criticism. At the time, a fake Twitter account was launched, and when the company complained to Twitter to have it shut down, it caught even more flak.