• The Pepper Shaker

  • November 2017
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Pepper Mill #6: Customer Relations

Sometimes I like to wait for just the right story to highlight good forms of PR. This honorable mention goes out to Southwest Airlines for their outstanding and humanitarian practice of customer relations.

At its core, customer relations representatives and experts chant the mantra, “The customer is always right.” And sometimes it’s easy to do that – you issue a refund, resolve a complaint, answer questions, help fix a problem or any other sort of thing. But all too often, customer relations reps and PR pros focus on fixing a problem instead of taking preventative measures.

Take this story, for example. On a recent Southwest flight, an older man was hurrying to catch a plane because of an unexpected family emergency. His grandson was dying after a severe head injury, and didn’t know how long the boy had to live. The pilot somehow knew of this and delayed the flight so he could board. Where airline employees would normally be punished for holding up a flight, the pilot got up and went to the gate himself to wait for the man.

The pilot’s acts were no doubt compassionate and understanding. A Southwest spokesperson said, “”As you’re reading the story, you absolutely get tears in your eyes and just an overwhelming sense of pride that our pilot took such an action. It really makes you proud to work for Southwest.”

These preventative techniques display care and concern for individuals – the best kind of PR you can do. Similar to the spokesperson, passengers begin to think to themselves, “It really makes you proud to fly with Southwest.” Wouldn’t you feel that way, too?

Read the whole story, here.

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Pepper Mill #5: Political Relations

You might just call this politics in general…because when you have to get votes to secure your job, you’ll do just about anything to make people happy.

Politicians have campaign managers, media relations managers, speech-writers, and event planners to ensure they are engaging with the public correctly. Depending on the gravity of the position, this crew may range from one individual covering all duties, or a whole squadron of pros working together. The end result is the same: make that politician connect with his audience in a pleasing way.

Last night was the beginning of Hanukkah, and to get things underway, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger paid his respects to the Jewish faith with a celebration at the state capitol. He passed presents to children, helped to light a giant menorah, gave a speech and- the best part- danced with rabbis in the traditional Jewish style. From the looks of it, it is probably his first time.

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/syndication?id=111089314&path=%2Fnews%2Flocal-beat

I’m not sure if Arnold is Jewish, but I don’t think he is. All the more reason to give him credit (or the political communications managers behind him) for participating in the event.

Happy Chanukah!

Pepper Mill #4: Fan Relations

Johnny Depp cares for people. Jack Sparrow does not. 🙂

Just last week, dozens of young kiddos were beyond surprised when, during their elementary school assembly, in walked Captain Jack Sparrow. No, really, it was him!

Nine-year-old Beatrice Delap had written to Johnny Depp’s character, who was currently based in England to film the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  She wrote, “Captain Jack Sparrow –  At Meridian primary school, we are a bunch of budding young pirates and we were having a bit of trouble mutinying against the teachers and we’d love if you could come and help.”

And so he did. Fully decked out as Capt. Sparrow, Depp and a few other swashbucklers entered into the small assembly hall where screaming kids greeted him. The young girl got a hug from the pirate and Sparrow and his crew put on a skit for them. He encouraged them not to mutiny because there were cops just outside; but instead encouraged them to enjoy simple things like eating candy. A day to remember for those kids, I am sure. I’m a bit jealous, actually.

But what a move, right? This example perfectly illustrates how to strengthen relationships between a celebrity and the fans. What Depp accomplished was done very tastefully, and he didn’t seek media attention. He just did it for the kids. (And got lots of media attention because of it!) That right there is the best kind of image a celebrity can create for him or herself. It’s genuine, sincere, and fun. One writer comments, that Johnny Depp “is a proper, gold-plated, limited-edition dude.” (Eva Wiseman, here.) How’s that for PR?

Pepper Mill #3: Community Relations

Community relations is all about being neighborly. Companies can gain a friendly relationship with locals if they interact and serve their neighbors well. Over time, these interactions build trust between the two which can ultimately benefit both. Pretty cool, huh?

Unfortunately, it’s up to the company to start flirting. Attractive things you could do, as a community relations manager, is to issue coupons in mailouts, organize community service projects, raise money for charitable organizations in the local area, support political issues (there are pros and cons for this one), and provide jobs for residents. In turn, the local community will feel more persuaded in dealing with your business and your product, which will provide your company with loyal and happy customers. Maybe you’re thinking, “What, that’s all I get?” To which I respond: it’s all you ever really wanted anyway, isn’t it?

I think of all forms of public relations, the emphasis of community relations is really where PR pros can shine. They can honestly make a positive difference for their neighbors, all the while increasing the good name of the company. What good ideas would you have to improve community relations?

Pepper Mill #2: Analyst Relations

I’ll make this Pepper Mill about analyst relations. It’s a field I have my feet in right now. Analyst relations deals with the positive relationships built between a company and industry research analysts. These analyst firms produce valuable research on current trends as well as forecast what these trends will experience in the near future. They produce helpful analysis on the market and indicate which companies are leaders.

I currently work in high tech PR. The analyst relations team here works to interact with these analysts, cooperate with them when they need data, educate them on the company vision and strategy, and meet together to answer questions. In turn, analysts use the data to form quantitative and qualitative research. Their reports are authoritative. Competitors use and site their reports and statistics to their advantage.

Gartner Magic Quadrant

Gartner Magic Quadrant

For example, Gartner is a very successful analyst firm. They produce a report called “Magic Quadrants” that rank leaders in specific areas. They way they are ranked determines if they are leaders, visionaries, challengers, or niche players. Companies want to strive to fall to the upper right corner of this graph to the right.

Keeping good with analysts is vital. Without an established relationship with them, companies lose out and go without consideration of being a market player. Now what company would want that? Relationships with them can be supported by holding briefings, calling them with updates, interacting with their tweets and blogs, and being the go-to for all their research needs regarding your organization. More information on analysts can be found on sites like www.sagecircle.com.

Pepper Mill #1: Public Relations

Let’s discuss the umbrella term “public relations.” What comes to mind? Do you picture a sneaky businessman crossing out phrases on documents with a big smile on his face? Or do you see an overly enthusiastic woman giving a speech to reporters while dodging questions or re-wording stories to her advantage?

These are common misconceptions.  Those stereotypes often get used in movies and in passive conversations. But really, what do public relations professionals do?

Public relations practitioners build relationships with important people that influence your business. Take a look at the picture to the right. PR specialists and managers do whatever is in their power to promote their products and the good name of the company to their associates. By building these relationships, they build trust in the company. And when that trust grows, those associates in turn promote your business to consumers who will raise profits.

Imagine your relationships with the people you know: family, friends, co-workers. How you associate with each one is different. They are treated differently, and benefits of each relationship is different. Ultimately, they gain trust in you, which can have many advantages.

We’ll get into specific trends and ideas as these Pepper Mills are introduced, but one thing encompasses them all: public relations is the art of building business relationships. What does public relations mean to you?

Introducing: Pepper Mills

Pepper Mills represent the various forms of public relations that exist in business. Each one is unique.

Along with Peppercorns, I will post about different forms of public relations. To me, “public relations” is an umbrella term for similar, yet specialized forms of interacting with audiences.

Pepper Mills represent the many shapes and forms relationships are built between a business and their audiences. They go under these names: community relations, investor relations, analyst relations, business relations and many more.

With this, we’ll go over how each one is different, what to do, and how to use social media to bring real flavor to successfully boom your business.

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