• The Pepper Shaker

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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.

Wishing You a Very Digital Christmas

Stories are told different ways.

Here’s how the Internet would tell you the story of the Nativity.  We’re not talking about a web site (there would be thousands of those.) This is as if the Internet could tell you the story. This is how it would go:

Happy Christmas and a very digital New Year to you, too!

Facebook: The World Within

I’ve recently become fascinated with what the future of Facebook means for social and business relationships. Of course, it has been fascinating ever since it started, but a look at recent trends makes me wonder where it will take us socially and professionally.

Mashable.com has released a couple articles on this, but I would like to compile them together for this entry. First, let’s look at where Facebook stood as a social media provider in June 2009:

Facebook Dominance in June 2009

According to the chart above, Facebook is the coverage leader with most countries using it as opposed to other networks. The countries that do not primarily use Facebook use a variety of other platforms – some I can’t pronounce. Now lets look at it currently:

Facebook Dominance as of December 2010

Facebook Dominance as of December 2010

Not only does Facebook proceed to take over South America and Western Asia, but the actual number of platforms even competing are down from 17 to 11. It’s like the game of “RISK”.

But let’s go deeper.

What does Facebook’s widespread use have to do with relationships? Well, the idea was once called making a “global village,” meaning that distant people and groups could still communicate personally and effectively, breaking any barriers distance would normally cause. See this image below for an idea on how Facebook makes this happen:

Facebook Connects the World

Facebook Connects the World

So with Facebook’s complete social media dominance imminent, I’d like to take a couple stabs at what this means, along with some other things I wonder might happen:

1. As the internet grows and becomes more easily accessible, more people around the world will get on Facebook, opening up social interactions with Northern South America, Africa, and Northern Asia.

2. Brazil will soon be Facebook-dominant while Russia and Japan might be with time. China, on the other hand, might take longer.

3. Data used from Facebook will be continue to be used in social studies and used by businesses for making critical marketing decisions.

4. I wonder if one day there will be a Facebook “President.” No, I’m not talking about Zuckerberg. I’m thinking of an elected body of officials, voted through Facebook to represent the voice of the people on Facebook. They would act as leaders in standing up for the opinion of the masses on Facebook topics and take it up with corporate. (For example, “Nobody wants the new profile, go back!” or “The people are concerned that a variety of their friends are not showing on the News Feed, please fix this issue.”) It would make for very interesting campaigning as petitions could be filled and people could run for elected seats all throughout the world.

5. Facebook will likely be attacked by more hackers and spam hosts, as well as dissenters against Facebook all together, who refuse to join.

6. More books will be written on etiquette, personal relationship management, and business integration, all on Facebook.

7. Finally, many many years from now, a revolution will occur. A new social media platform will begin, and what will start as a few will end up in a mass migration to the new platform just for something different.

I wonder if any of these will be true. How do you see the future of Facebook?

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!

Messing Up….Live!

Let this be a lesson in preparation.

There are a lot of ways individuals can mess up. Too many to count, really. But when the error is recorded on a live show, that can seriously make the situation worse. There have been stories of political candidates leaving their microphones on backstage expressing personal opinions, obvious lip-syncs by musicians, word slips by newscasters, and many other blunders never to be let down by the relentless sharing powers of the internet.

Some are harder to overcome than others. Take this clip for example: Mike Myers and Kanye West are presenting the need to donate to New Orleans victims after Hurricane Katrina when – as is characteristic of him – Kanye makes a personal outburst.

Did you see Myers’ and Chris Tucker’s face after he said that?! Poor guys got stuck in an awkward situation. Now, Kanye is well known for these antics today, but he received a bit of backlash from his obviously racial attack.  In these situations, time doesn’t immediately allow for you to cover up the error right away and may take a lot of time to work out backlash criticism. A part of me thinks Kanye likes that kind of attention, but it was clearly not a messaging point desired by the relief fund. Good thing for them other stars took the stage in later efforts and restored a bit of peace.

Here’s another example I came across just the other day. It’s in Spanish, but I think you’ll understand perfectly what happens as the hosts try to demonstrate how their product is “unbreakable.”

I love how sure of themselves they are right before it breaks (notice the female host’s sassy attitude.) I also love how the male host tries to redirect attention after happens. Unfortunately, it’s too late!

It’s all in preparation. If you’re going live, do you your research, prepare for the worst, and do your best.

PR Patties

I came across yet another peppery example of public relations today.

The scene: Bustling Tokyo.

The background: There are a lot of people in a small area. They all eat rice daily.

The problem: Too many business buildings, not enough farmland for rice to sustain everyone. People get mad at businesses for taking land, and businessmen start to sweat.

The solution: Simple! Put a rice paddy in your office building!

The outcome: The company produces the rice on their own dime. Neighbors are happy their environment isn’t entirely wasted due to big business.

My take: I think it’s great. Not only does it appear to ease tensions over food production and land management, but it helps those well-dressed white collars to get down-to-earth. While some might think they do it in vain, I think it helps concerned citizens understand that they are trying their best. I’ve read  a lot of jokes about undertaking this particular program here (like, do they serve the rice in their own cafeteria, too?) but I think their efforts are worthwhile and may increase moral among employees. What do you think?

All Eyes on You for Halloween

Making publicity plans around holidays has got to be a staple for PR and marketing professionals. Everyone loves a holiday, so it would be best to associate your brand with themes and feelings that people already love. The more unique the tactic you present to the situation, the better. And because Halloween is all about having fun, it’s easy.

On the most candy-glorified day of the year, what would a dentist do? An example I’ve seen is from a dental practice in Santa Barbara, CA called Johnson Family Dental. They are holding an event where kids can trade in their Halloween candy for money. It was the first time I’ve heard of the idea – and the idea is brilliant. Why? Because the message all dentists would want to convey is dental hygiene.  If they hold this idea to the max, they might give you a toothbrush when you knock on their door. (Sad time for kids, I’m sure.)

Happy Halloween!

Events like these bring people through thier doors as kids, maybe with a push from parents, come inside to trade a pound of candy for a two dollars. Johnson Family Dental will then send the money to troops overseas through Operation Gratitude. Doesn’t get much better than that. This kind of event, one in which everyone benefits, results in a win-win-win situation. It might take more thought, but that’s what good PR requires.

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