Randy’s blog gets under Airbus’ skin, but what to do about it?

Opinions are of course divided on Boeing marketing chief Randy Baseler’s blog, but they’re mostly divided between dedicated bloggers and everyone else. The bloggers are irritated that Randy won’t play by their rules and still has quite a successful blog; everyone else is just interested in what he has to say, to some extent anyway.

But there’s a third, much smaller group. Airbus marketing is even more irritated by it – and now I understand they’re trying to work out what to do about it.

This week Airbus has held its annual conference in Toulouse for the technical press (expect a copy deluge over the next few weeks). For the first time in a while I wasn’t at it personally, but by aerospace media standards it’s a huge event and journalists fly in from literally all over the world for it.

I’ve just been going through the numerous presentations and noticed that Airbus devotes four complex slides to explicitly rebutting Randy’s 27 April post entitled Wait a Minute. That’s the sort of thing that sends the hard-core bloggers apoplectic – companies issuing their response to a blog only to the evil mainstream media!

But you can see Airbus’ problem. What are they supposed to do? Getting into a public slanging match with Randy is not a great idea for either company. But how can it be avoided? I think you can assume Airbus would like your suggestions (although they wouldn’t say they would – which is part of their problem.)

Actually I think their bigger problem is working out who would write it. Airbus seems to have a strategy of a) being extremely closely engaged with the aviation and general media, and b) wowing the general public with gee whiz material on their new aircraft (as Boeing has been doing with 787.) But the bit in the middle – ie engaging with the general public – doesn’t fit very well with their culture, and diverging from the culture is not encouraged at Airbus anymore than it is anywhere else.

I mentioned Randy’s blog in passing to a senior Airbus marketeer recently and he half-jokingly said something to the effect “oh, has Randy got a blog”, but he also made it clear he knew it was causing trouble. From chatting to people who were in Toulouse this week I gather Airbus is now properly setting about addressing the issue.

I don’t know how this is going to end. It constantly shocks me that Airbus and Boeing have come to be national champions in quite the way they have and any argument on the web about them – and there are thousands – is apt to sink in bizarre quantities of quasi-nationalistic poison.  The garbage spouted by some airline pilots on the subject is particularly alarming (though the thoughtful stuff from them is often superb.)

What Randy hasn’t really managed to do – and few blogs do – is to generate a really useful debate about much of this. Most commenters on the site are USA/Boeing flag-waving – nothing wrong with that, but nothing very productive about it either. I wonder if Airbus has an opportunity to find its way into the blogosphere via some greater engagement with the world.

And I’d be very interested indeed in your comments.

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