(post by Andrew Thorp)
Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg has come up with an ingenious idea for boosting his flagging poll ratings in the run up to next month’s elections – work as a taxi driver!
Actually the idea came from a friend of his who runs an advertising agency, but it’s certainly gone some way to boosting his profile and reconnecting him with the electorate. The footage on this video clip shows the stunned reaction of passengers as they realise who’s behind the wheel. One elderly lady takes it all in her stride, suggesting to the PM that politicians earn too much money (I guess she left no tip!).
The fact that news agencies around the world have carried the story demonstrates what a great idea it was, at least in terms of profile. It’s the type of PR stunt that a lot of businesses crave – they’re always looking for that ‘viral story’ that produces quick results (as measured by column inches).
But I want to make a case here for a different kind of Public Relations, the type of storytelling that’s our stock-in-trade at Mojo Your Business. Let’s call it DIYPR!
This little chap looks happy enough, but he was screaming his head off when he stepped on a Southwest Airlines flight captained by Joe Gautille in March 2011. Apparently, the boy had experienced a turbulent flight the week before, and the anticipation of another bumpy ride had triggered the tears. But Gautille came to the rescue with a VIP tour of the cockpit and a souvenir photo of the experience.
What’s interesting here is that such a small story is unlikely to grab any headlines in the regular press, but it actually says a great deal about the airline. It’s been shared both internally within Southwest and externally through its blog ‘Nuts about Southwest’. Capt Joe comes across as a nice guy and in fact he’s one of a team of bloggers within the company (along with baggage handlers, check-in staff and flight attendants) who essentially act like journalists, always on the look out for great stories. These stories feature the employees, are written by them and get shared with the wider world.
Southwest’s blog has won several awards and it’s not hard to see why this form of communication has been so wholeheartedly embraced by the company. From the outside, the airline comes across as friendly, customer-focused and fun. But it also makes the employees feel great about the contribution they’re making, every day, to the Southwest brand. That leads to a more engaged & motivated workforce.
These self-generated stories are pivotal to conveying perhaps the most important differentiator in modern-day marketing – WHO YOU ARE. By that I mean what you’re like to deal with, what values you hold, what your company culture is like. This helps people FEEL GOOD about using you and they’ll factor that in alongside the rational reasons (like affordability) why your product or service is right for them.
This form of self-generated (DIY) Public Relations shows our authentic self. These stories are a humanised expression of who we are as an organisation. They help build trust and warmth with potential buyers, but they’re also a way to give your employees a voice and it’s that INTERNAL impact that’s often underestimated by companies looking for ‘attractive PR’. Handled well, organisational story-sharing can really transform workplace culture and boost performance.
Another example closer to home – from a serviced office company we’ve been working with:
A consultant was waiting to pitch for a vital piece of business and wandered around the grounds of the office complex, trying to ‘get in the zone’ before entering the board room to deliver his presentation. Climbing over a stile in his best suit, he felt a tug on his clothing and looked down with horror as a foot-long rip had opened up down his trouser leg. The office manager had no sewing kit to hand, but a judicious placement of sticky tape held the leg together and the presentation was made – successfully as it turned out!
These are small stories, but they say so much about the company and its people. The tricky thing is developing the right environment, and coaching employees, to discover the stories they have in their locker and building the skill and confidence to share them.
If you’re interested in developing a story-sharing culture within your organisation, we’d love to talk to you. I’m offering some free Skype sessions this month, by way of an initial consultation. Click here to reserve your place.