Meet Your New PR Team: Every Employee You’ve Got


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A grieving grandfather, a jam-packed airport, and a pilot who prioritized human compassion over his flight schedule.

No one would allege that this outstanding story from Southwest Airlines was anything other than a very real act of kindness, but it is also a sterling example of what generates great PR when everyone has a working bull$#!+ meter: genuine and compelling humanity, from the bottom up.

If you haven’t seen the headline yet, you will: “Southwest Pilot Holds Plane for Grandfather of Murdered Toddler.” Despite arriving at the airport two hours before his flight, snarled security lines kept the man from arriving at his gate until 12 minutes after his departure time. But when he got there, he was met by the pilot who, after apologizing for the man’s loss said, “They can’t go anywhere without me, and I wasn’t going anywhere without you.” Thanks to that choice, the grandfather made it to his 3-year old grandchild’s hospital bed in time to say goodbye.

Is it callous to even consider such a story in terms of PR? Absolutely — if the numbers are what you go by. But what’s really driving this story as it blasts through the Twittersphere and elsewhere is the surprise injection of real emotion into a business world that, in too many instances, still holds customers at arm’s length. Social media criticism is scaring some companies into action, but as I wrote last week, surface-level socialization does not a caring corporate culture make. Consumers are looking for the real deal, and old-school “we cooked this up in the board room and it shall henceforth be our story” PR isn’t going to cut it for much longer.

So what is it exactly that Southwest did right here? They hired a good person whose judgment could be trusted. It was probably a fluke — I’m sure their criteria had more to do with flying a plane than comforting the bereaved. But character is, without question, on the table now, and forward-looking companies know that, like the king on the original frontispiece for Hobbes’ Leviathan, they are large entities composed of countless individuals, whose collective character dictates the result.

Every employee is a brand ambassador, and the brand is, in turn, defined more by their actions than by any edict from the marketing department. The smartest thing any company can do now before embarking on a PR campaign is figure out who they really are — and want to be — first.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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