August 07, 2023

Make ‘Em Laugh
Humor on social media

Interview with: Michael Corcoran
Ryanair, the airline known for its affordable flights and quirky humor, has become a global sensation in the world of social media, thanks to the creative genius Michael Corcoran. As the Head of Social and Creative Content, Michael has been leading the charge in revolutionizing Ryanair's digital presence. We sat down with him to get a glimpse into his fascinating role and uncover the secrets behind his social media wizardry.
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Hatidža: Could you tell us more about your role and what it entails in terms of responsibilities?
Michael: Absolutely! My role recently expanded from being solely responsible for social media to now overseeing the end-to-end creative process. As social media has become a cost-effective marketing approach for us, we realized the value of disrupting not just online but also in the real world. So, we want our creative team to develop good thinking and the ability to do that offline, which inevitably, will come back into social as well where we'll tell the story about the things that we're doing and how we're disrupting and driving more awareness.
Hatidža: That sounds intriguing! On a personal note, do you have any private social media accounts?
Michael: Indeed, I do! However, I wouldn't consider myself an influencer. My private accounts mainly consist of poorly made TikTok’s (as a father of three young boys), adorable pictures of my children on Instagram and the occasional post about my love for coffee, which I'm absolutely obsessed with.
Hatidža: It's always interesting to see a different side of people on social media. Speaking of which, do you follow others on social media and is it primarily for business or personal reasons?
Michael: My social media feed is a mix of both. I follow thought leaders on specific platforms to stay informed about industry trends. On TikTok, I follow certain creators to understand the popular styles and trending sounds that are relevant to our content. And Instagram is mostly about my family, friends, community and my personal interests, like sports and coffee.
Hatidža: Thanks for sharing! Now, can you walk us through a particularly productive day in your life at Ryanair? It sounds like a fast-paced environment.
Michael: Every day is very productive at Ryanair because we work hard, we move fast and we try to disrupt as quickly as we can. Every day is different. It would involve me getting status updates on the team and projects that are happening on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. I review and brief in content from other departments and help develop ideas and direct my team to deliver the best work they can. I ensure that it ladders back up to the strategy and the overall big thinking. There are also monotonous things like reporting and process management that are important. But where I get my satisfaction and buzz from is developing a strategy, building a team and building the steps in place to execute that. It's about empowering creativity by empowering the team to deliver on the strategy, letting them learn, letting them fail at times, and improving and growing. If I were too busy overseeing everything, the team wouldn't develop. I can deliver what's needed, but the future of Ryanair's marketing wouldn't be set up. So, it's about developing the team to be confident, creative and aligned with the strategy to future-proof Ryanair's marketing.
Hatidža: It's inspiring to hear about your focus on strategy and team development. Speaking of teams, do you find yourself more inspired and productive in the office or in a more casual environment?
Michael: It's a bit of both! Finding the balance is key.

That's why we drink a lot of coffee! You need quiet spaces to let your mind mull over things and develop campaigns. Social media is tricky because you need to react fast and be creative in the moment. Sometimes, those ideas are not the most creative, but the timing of delivery makes them succeed. Certain team members naturally have the mindset and capability for quick delivery, while others need time to sit back, think deeply and come up with stronger ideas, especially for bigger campaign projects. People are different and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to developing ideas. We try to ensure that everybody in the environment has a balance to find those moments. Being in the office allows for creativity to manifest without being forced. Ideas often come from casual interactions, whether it's having coffee, lunch together or simply chatting as we work. This organic collaboration is something you can't get by sitting alone at home.
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Hatidža: I can imagine the lively atmosphere! Now, let's talk about experiments. In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes brands make when experimenting?
Michael: I don't think you can make mistakes when experimenting because that's the beauty of experimenting. It's okay to make mistakes. The problem is when people don't learn from those mistakes and keep doing the wrong thing repeatedly. It's important to learn from mistakes and do things differently the next time. There's no right or wrong way to try things. The key is learning from the outcomes.
Hatidža: What factors do you consider when selecting creative team members? How do you maintain a united work environment?
Michael: It's a great question. Because even the selection of my social team over the last couple of years, I've created a nonconventional team. Many businesses go to the problem of taking a traditional organizational structure, putting those teams in place and then making a strategy to deliver, and sometimes you don't have the right pieces in place to deliver on that strategy. We delivered the strategy first and then started to build a team around it. So, because our strategy is quite creator-led, polished corporate social media managers are not the right people to deliver on that. So we went head hunting and found the actual right creators who were on a trajectory of almost being famous on their own channels. And because they knew the platform so well, we went recruiting them. So, we plugged them into our team. But then, because creative people wouldn't be the most organized people, you've got to find people who are good at social but also very good at processes and strategic thinking. And by assembling all those different strengths combined together, you have a team that is ready to deliver on the strategy in its right way.

Now, that comes with its challenges, because when people come in, you might have some egos, but you also might have some people who get annoyed because some people are good at things and not so good at things. You've got creative people who are disorganized and the organized people get frustrated because they're not organized at things and that creates a lot of tension. But when they buy into the strategy, when they buy into the culture of what we try to develop, there does come a moment where you see them go ‘I get why we're here. I get why I'm here. I get why they're there‘, and I can see the fruits of our labor slowly coming through. So, I always encourage people that I try to find, you play to your strengths and develop your weaknesses. But you develop your weaknesses with me and with the other members of your team. I create an environment where we're comfortable in chaos because it is a busy space. It is a fast-moving environment and also a place where we can be constructive and critical to each other and not take it personal. Sometimes, everybody's human, and if they say they don't like your idea and they back it up with good rationale rather than subjectivity, well, then we're doing the right thing. Sometimes those humans will get upset and emotional and we are all capable of doing that and I'm capable of throwing my toys out of a pram too from people not liking my ideas, but you get better, and like, emotional intelligence is such an important part in being professional. And I've learned a lot about that in my own career and I'm trying to fast track my team to bypass that faster. They can learn from different mistakes, but if I teach them to be emotionally intelligent faster, especially working with different skills and different strengths, we can make a quite a good team and we've succeeded in that over the last couple of years and now it's come to the place where they trust the process, they trust each other and they pick each other up in the areas where they're not as strong and that's what the team is about. We also emphasize the importance of constructive feedback and continuous learning. By providing opportunities for growth and development, we keep the team motivated and engaged.
Hatidža: How do you balance the need for creativity with the pressure to deliver results and meet business goals?
Michael: Balancing creativity and business goals is a challenge, but it's a challenge that we embrace. Creativity is at the core of our marketing strategy, and it's what sets us apart from our competitors. However, we also understand the importance of delivering results and meeting business objectives. To achieve this balance, we ensure that our creative ideas are aligned with our overarching marketing goals. We set clear objectives for each campaign or project and measure the impact and effectiveness of our creative efforts. This allows us to evaluate the results and make data-driven decisions to optimize our strategies. We constantly iterate and refine our approach to strike the right balance between creativity and business outcomes.
Hatidža: How far do your brand books depart from the established framework?
Michael: It's hard. Because again, the reality is for many marketers, you can spend a year developing a beautiful set of brand guidelines and a brand book, and almost weeks afterwards, it becomes redundant and out of date. So, we're going on a journey now, trying to redefine our tone of voice and make it solid and consistent across all channels. You won't be consistent because the platforms, the people you're reaching are completely different, but once you have, I guess, the fabric of what you want to do, how you want to look and how you want to sound consistently, you allow them flexibility to do that. And, the beauty of Ryanair is we're not this polished brand, we never try to be and we never will be. We're not a premium brand like Apple, so we don't have to obsess on details of how far you're logo needs to be on a piece of creative and then the whole marketing department losing their mind because the font size is one size too big. There are things we don't worry about because that's what people, when they consume it, they don't care about it themselves. They don't care. What's important is the concept and the messaging and what you're trying to do with it, everything else is irrelevant. And us as marketers probably over-engineer that too much and we need to let ourselves go and let our egos get out of the way of developing good ideas.
Hatidža: How do you deal with copycat brands?
Michael: I guess, it's humbling to see that people think we're doing something right, but we don't really do much about it. Like, we had a bit of a jest and joke in the past over Airlines copying what we do on TikTok, but normally, we don't engage, because we're only giving them extra fuel to get more publicity and more awareness, whereas we just ignore it. So, we respect people that are trying to copy it, but as a professional, I'm like, is that right for your brand? Like, you're really not thinking about what we are doing here for Ryanair and what's important about this approach and this style for us. You're copying us potentially for the wrong reasons and you're not learning about what we're doing for our brand and what we're trying to solve and you're probably not utilizing the platforms in the best way for yours.
Hatidža: How do you stay updated with the latest trends and innovations in the marketing industry? Where do you see the future of social media and marketing heading, and how is Ryanair preparing for it?
Michael: Everything changes at the speed of light. Like two years ago or three years ago, everyone was talking about the Metaverse. Now the Metaverse is no more. It's been deprioritized by Facebook and everybody else. Last year, it was NFTs, it was this new shiny tie that people were looking at and thinking how can I make a marketing campaign or make myself look relatable about NFTs, but actually, they're not looking at how intangibly it can fix your business or your marketing methods. Now, it's chat GPT and AI. AI excits me but currently it's derailing so many as the new shinny toy. I'm seeing such value and the opportunity in making research and mundane tasks easiers, meaning more time spent on thinking and that's exciting as the idea is everything. As fot the future of social, owning audience and taking a community with you is the biggest challenge. Twitter and Elon Musk, TikTok bans in countries. If a channel dies over night, that's it, boom, it's gone. We are renting an audience after time and effort building 10m plus followers so there has to be a focus on rentaining a community that you build.
Hatidža: Exciting times ahead! Lastly, what advice do you have for aspiring social media professionals looking to make a mark in the industry?
Michael: It's easy for future social media professionals to be savvy and understand the platforms, they've grown up with it. To make a make, don't swim in the same direction as all other professionals. Social Media is still so young but rapidly changes. Three things that could help 1) don't forget to understand the timeless truths of marketing it will provide the backbone to be a better marketer on social media. 2) study and follow multiple view points of experienced people in the industry, those that have similar perspectives and schools of thought AND those who have different views. It's normally the latter that challenges your thinking far greater to porgresss and deve. 3) Be curious, be relentless and most importantly have a view on social media. Social media is not black and white, there's many ways to spin it, but you'll be paid to have a view on it as the person who spends the most time on it.
Hatidža: Thank you, Michael, for sharing your insights and experiences. It was truly inspiring to learn about your role and the creative journey at Ryanair. We wish you continued success in revolutionizing social media marketing.