Everyday PR

Image Advice for Politicians

Now that the midterm election is over, let me offer some advice to those elected officials who may need, depending on your perspective, a tweaking of their image or a complete makeover. 

1)    Listen – The American voters spoke, and in many cases, spoke loudly.  Per the typically more reliable exit polls, voters are most concerned about the economy.  That’s it.  So listen up; it will do wonders for your image.

2)   Be humble – Enough with the arrogance, narcissism and condescending attitude.  The American voters aren’t totally stupid nor are our allies and enemies around the world.  Humility, starting in the nation’s capitol, goes a long way toward resolution. 

3)    Think before you speak – In hindsight, doesn’t calling Republicans “enemies“, police officers “stupid“ and telling the President of the United States to “shove it” sound a tad impulsive, quick tempered and anything but statesmanlike? 

4)    Lead – Leading means more than meeting with like-minded decision makers, group hugs with lobbyists and sharing a beer with the common folk.  Per Websters, leading means guiding, commanding and inspiring. If that’s not possible, then do us all a favor and fall back on founding father Thomas Paine’s advice and  “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

5)    Embrace maturity – If I hear one more snarky comment from one “leader” about an opposing “leader”, I’ll spit.  It’s ridiculous, sophomoric, meaningless and counter productive. I realize that aging is biological, and growing up is optional, but please, give maturity a shot.

There you have it – my free advice to improve the image of current and newly elected officials. What image advice would you add?

New Decision Factor in Voting: Ads

To avoid the inevitable rush, I’ve already cast my votes for this year’s elections.  But unlike previous voting decisions, I actually factored in branding, messaging and the integrity of television ads so that I could vote for the candidates with the least offensive ads.  I’m so unimpressed with the lack of creativity and the surplus of personal attacks that I could spit.  ABC’s Nightline even developed awards for this year’s nastiest ads.

The bombardment of meaningless ads is overwhelming.  The messages are confusing, if not total lies; the attacks are theatrical, many with paid actors; and no significant issues, much less solutions, are mentioned.  In the few political campaigns I worked, we would do a lot of things, but we would never mention the opponent by name lest the message be misunderstood; now the ads are so convoluted that I have no idea which candidate the ad is endorsing.  I actually took notes with me to the voting booth.

Where are the professional public relations strategists?  Where are the issues management experts? And where are the minds of consciousness to properly advise candidates?  Instead, the ads are a cacophony of sophomoric “he said/he said” (and I use that pronoun androgynously) that no wonder the job ratings of elected officials is so low.  If you believe all the ads, you’re given a choice between a gun-toting wife beater and a convicted baby killer.  Nobody is offering solutions to issues like unemployment and housing.  It’s more like a contest of one-upmanship on who can dig up the most dirt on their opponent or shirk all blame on the predecessor, be it local or in the nation’s capitol.   Then these folks have the nerve to say they “approved this ad.”  Well, if you did and I know everyone doesn’t see everything (think John McCain) before airing, then you’re not getting my vote. Finally, if that’s how you have branded yourself as a regular person, then why should I believe that you’re going to be a thoughtful decision maker, conscientious collaborator and problem solver if voted into a position of power?

How has this season of political advertising affected you or your vote?

Gap Left Out the Basics

Well what kind of public relations blogger would I be if I didn’t put in my two cents on the Gap’s recent logo implosion?  While I know how painful it can be for outsiders to pass judgment on internal creative decisions, I can’t help but wonder about the basics here – as in the fundamental tenets of marketing and public relations.  It’s not at all about whether or not the new logo was well received - it’s about the process of change. 

A few questions I’d like to ask  the Gap include:

1)   What feedback and/or data indicated that  a new logo was needed?  Whenever a client tells me they want to make a change in logo, graphics, or product line, for that matter, I always ask for the rationale.  Just because the client is tired of seeing the same logo (or ad, product display, etc.) doesn’t mean their target audiences are.  And unless somebody died, the business was acquired or somebody was convicted, there really needs to be a solid and logical set of reasons to make a logo change.

2)  What research and rationale are there to support a change? As one friend put it,  ”Changing the Gap’s logo is like suggesting a change to the American flag. Maybe they don’t realize it, but the Gap’s logo is so iconic and so many people are emotionally attached to it, especially all those moms who love BabyGap clothing and Gap Kids.”

3)  What about a plan to launch the new logo?  There was a plan, right?

4)  Did the plan begin first with internal communications from the top to the store manager level?  Most people initially are adverse to change – not the change itself, but the fact that it’s a change.  With ownership and buy-in from internal audiences and front-line consumer representatives, the resistance to change usually can be minimized.  In fact, the loudest naysayers often turn out to be your biggest advocates.

5)  What kind of feedback did test marketing receive?  Seriously, I’m looking for documentation.

6) What was the budget?  If the Gap has the budget necessary to change everything from store signs to clothes tags to collateral (and there must be thousands of collateral pieces), then a logo change must have been viewed as a serious expenditure.  In addition to paying New York-based creative team Laird + Partners for its creative work (it’s irrelevant whether or not people liked the new logo), a logo change means big bucks.  Now that those bucks don’t have to be spent, what’s going to happen to that budget allocation?  I suggest a “We Changed Our Mind About a New Logo” sale, or a pre-holiday ”What Were We Thinking?” clearance?

It appears that some fundamentals of communications were overlooked by the Gap.  It also appears that the power of social media is either alive and well, or the Gap wasn’t on solid ground in the first place. And it appears that the whole situation has created a lot of buzz.  The bottom, bottom line for the publicly traded company?  Neglible movement in the stock price, and that’s what overrides most  of this discussion.


Airline Customer Service Makes or Breaks Brand

In today’s competitive environment for increased consumer selectivity and decreased spending dollars, bad customer service just won’t fly.  So when a group of us were recently unable to make airline connections due to inclement weather – as in gale force winds – the experiences with different airlines resulted in examples of good, bad and flat-out stupid customer service. 

Leading the pack for the single best customer service experience was Southwest Airlines. It took all of five minutes to chat with a well-trained, personable agent to take care of all our flight changes.  At one point, the agent actually apologized for the bad weather, like she had anything to do with it.  The thought of charging a passenger for making such a change never occurred to her. Nobody in our group was surprised.  Southwest’s extraordinarily positive reputation and brand remain in tack. (I understand Continental Airlines  charges a minimal fee to make reservation changes, but nobody in our group was flying with them.)
Runner-up for good customer service was Delta Airlines.   While agents initially assessed a fee for making changes to the original flight, those fees were waived when the customer explained the weather situation.  They did, however, charge a difference in fares or points.  The airline gets an average score for being helpful – after all, this is a service industry.  But for the customer having to fork over additional money, the thought still stings.
The worst consumer offender, hands down, was American Airlines.  If this airline’s reservations agents were responsible for protecting our borders, illegal immigration wouldn’t be an issue as they would either shoot or charge them to death before crossing.  Customer service features included:
·         Consistency.  Regardless of flight, fare or famine, American Airlines didn’t waive change fees for anybody.  They were merciless.
·         The average cost per person to change flights from one weekday to the following weekday was $1,000. 
·         Some of the group had purchased their tickets through the airline’s frequent flyer program, which was supposed to reward regular fliers for their business. Instead, these frequent fliers were punished for their loyalty by being accessed outlandish fees to continue to make an unavoidable flight change.
·         I heard one American agent tell a colleague, “Whoa, making that change is gonna cost you a lot of money. Let me check again as this can’t be right.”   He may as well have said, “You’re screwed”, like the ticket agent told Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles .  When your own agents are openly balking at their employer’s data on their computer screen, something is wrong.  I know the airlines are hurting for dollars, but to hose your best users of your service is crazy stupid. And by the way, several in the group said they’d never use Amerian again.
As author Karl Albrecht of The Only Thing That Matters points out, “Many organizations fail at good customer service because their leaders don’t realize that the heart of the service journey is spiritual, not mechanical.  They will bureaucratize the whole thing.”  He must have studied American Airlines.

Was our situation a fluke?  You tell me.  Whether it was or not, the point is that these customer service experiences help solidify each airline’s brand as a good or bad organization.  Hence, one single experience can make or break your brand and its equity, or lack thereof.

What kind of good and bad customer service experiences are you willing to share?

Mr. President: Advice from PR Pros

As President Obama’s job approval ratings continue to hover below 50%, and BP’s image is on life support, I asked my fellow public relations colleagues their thoughts on what to recommend.  Specifically, the question posed was “If you could offer Obama one or two suggestions to improve his job ratings, particularly in regard to the oil spill, what would they be?”  Here are some of the responses, and since it’s my blog, I get to go first:

Susan Hart - Meet with James Carville.  The Democratic strategist is beyond upset.  I recommend the President talk with Carville; solicit his input on how to better handle the oil spill in the eyes of coastal residents; put him in charge of recovery/rebuilding funds; tour the Louisiana coast with Carville and his wife.  Do something to both neutralize this vocal opinion leader and take advantage of his political influence and common sense.

Mary Beth West - The first recommendation is something that should have been done immediately, but better late than never:  clearly communicate roles and responsibilities re: BP’s role and the government’s role in the crisis response implementation.  A great deal of media/public confusion persists on who’s doing what (or rather, who’s supposed to be doing what), which not only feeds media criticism but also clouds the operational response; so it would have been a wise use of the President’s authority to cut through the roles/responsibilities question at a very early stage and firmly entrench his leadership to define the government’s appropriate oversight and enforcement roles.  Also, there are many elements of the crisis that the government cannot control directly, so it’s a mistake for the President to speak to those elements as if there is direct control to be had.  For example, the matter of overpromising re: the-Gulf-will-be-better-than-ever-once-this-is-all-over message that the President has put forward.  Definitely a credibility-buster for the long haul, and it’s completely puzzling to me why he chose to say that or was advised to say that, given the dire and extremely long-term nature of the damage inflicted. 

The second suggestion is that I find odd but also quite telling is this insistence by the Administration that they’re working with BP’s board chairman (as opposed to the CEO).  Yes, a CEO is answerable to his/her board of directors, but in terms of chain-of-command for actual crisis management and response, the whole repeated “we’re going over Hayward’s head” stance by the Administration seems to be a diversionary tactic to the fact that it never dawned on them to contact and coordinate with the company’s executive management in a direct capacity during the early crisis stages – and since the Matt Lauer interview, they’re having to come up with some excuse and/or contingency plan as to why.  I recognize Hayward is extremely unpopular in the media and that there is purposeful distancing going on, but to anyone who’s ever run a business or worked in a business environment, this scenario seems disconnected from practicality and a mere political maneuver to save face rather than lead toward real crisis resolution. (NOTE: Hayward’s role as daily spokesperson has since been minimized.)

The President is in a very difficult position.  It’s my hope that he will be successful in executing the government’s ability to manage its appropriate response roles rather than having that  response driven by efforts to exert authority, control or tough talk where it’s in fact unhelpful to the real tasks at hand.

Jeff Bradford - I hope Obama continues to plummet in popularity. His desire to turn America into a socialist state is killing our country. I hope he continues to demonstrate arrogance, to act like an academic with no understanding of “real people”, to be photographed with an angry or scared look on his face (have you seen  photo of this man smiling since he became president?), to openly pander to the labor movement, to openly abrogate property rights and the rule of law in general, to act like one of the looters from Atlas Shrugged (the resemblance is uncanny), to talk about prayer and blessings after having ridiculed people for clinging to guns and God (this president cannot convincingly talk about God, it is obvious he is trying to manipulate the populations addiction to “religious opium”), to use natural disasters to advance an unpopular political agenda (i.e., the oil spill and cap and tax legislation), to talk tough (a weak man looks particularly ridiculous when he tried to impersonate a strong one, i.e., Obama’s “kick ass” comments), to drop the “g” in gerunds (which he does in a very studied fashion and looks ridiculous), and to continue making it obvious how difficult it is for him to not betray his hatred for this country.

Clay Morgan - Staying away from policy and politics, the communications/PR aspect alone is incredibly complicated.  However, in a crisis, people need to know that someone is in charge, and what is being done.  The President, in any crisis, should very clearly, authoritatively and decisively state “Here’s the problem.  Here’s what we are going to do about it.  And this is what I need from you to help.”  And then engage the plan.  Afterward, just as clearly and decisively, the President needs to say “Here’s what we did wrong.  Here’s why.  And this is how we’re going to fix the problem in the future.”  I believe people, regardless of their status in an organization (constituents, employees, volunteers, customers or observers) need to know that something is being done, that someone is in charge, and what their role in helping is. And I think they respect and value people who take responsibility and try to learn from mistakes.

Pat Nolan Unfortunately, there appears to be very little President Obama can do directly to stop the leak. His tougher actions against BP could continue to help him as a rear guard effort and buy some time until the oil leak is finally plugged. The $20 billion in BP money put into a new escrow account is the best thing the President has helped make happen so far. Now the funds needs to be signed into checks and circulated ASAP to those in need on the Gulf Coast. Convincing BP not to issue any dividends is also a good move for the President and BP.

Is this an opportunity, as the President suggested in his Oval Office speech, to have the nation approve a new long-overdue national energy strategy to end our reliance on oil, especially oil from foreign, and many times, hostile countries? It could be, but the oil leak has probably got to be plugged first. And if the plan is merely perceived as some kind of new tax (on carbon), it will likely be dead on arrival in Congress.

Interestingly, the President mentioned other environmental legislative proposals, and not a carbon tax in his speech. He says he still supports some kind of “cap and trade” type program, but maybe he knows that is a political bridge too far in a year when his Democratic Party already looks to be in big trouble in holding on to control of the Congress next year.

Despite his many challenges and difficulties over the past year or so, President Obama has proven to be politically resourceful in getting some major things done in Washington such as the new health care law and what appears to be a victory soon in passing financial reform. That is likely to continue to help him going forward.  (NOTE:  Excerpts reprinted with Pat’s permission from his weekly Capital View column.)

Wendy Schweiger, speaking as a veteran citizen who can’t bring herself to act as a PR counselor in response to the question – I wish people would leave him the hell alone. No one can know what the burden of his office must be like, especially inheriting so many horrific messes and new challenges on top of those. I don’t feel qualified to suggest what he do about anything, and I certainly don’t want to tell him how to emote or not emote in front of an audience. I cannot imagine how he keeps going day to day. I’ve now seen him up close twice – had two clients with whom he visited – and I simply believe he’s going to do the best he can given the let’s-tear-everyone-down world we now apparently live in. Whether that’s good enough only time will tell. 

Laura Ladd, speaking as an experienced PR practitioner, wife and soccer mom – Obama needs to start providing some simple, concrete details about what he is going to do, instead of wowing the public with puffy speeches that have no substance. The finger-pointing and sniping about the problems he inherited – and the continual showboating about the perceived ‘progress’ he’s made..’despite the lack of participation across the aisle,’ is getting old and makes him look small. I see frequent reports in the news questioning the choice of/validity of figures used to support proposed legislation or to demonstrate economic progress, and I think this is a problem for him — it gives the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he is blowing smoke. A recent editorial by Peggy Noonan on Obama’s predicament offers an insight into the situation - maybe he’s a snakebit president. 

Mark Lee Taylor, veteran healthcare and marketing professional - Unfortunately for President Obama, the ship of public opinion has already sailed into the “we’re beginning to hate you” harbor. I fear he is backing himself into a position formerly held by Jimmy Carter circa 1979. It has to make you wonder: why on earth would anyone want to be president? Are we past the time in our history when people admire our national CEO?

The time to make the remarks President Obama made at his first oval office address was about 50 days ago. Unfair as it is, the majority of the public, sad to day, want someone to blame. He is a convenient whipping boy. And I use the word “boy” purposefully, because like, the “N” word, we are not supposed to give any credence to the idea that there are Americans who are inherently prejudicial against Obama because he is an African American. If only one could be a fly on the wall in juke joints in Mississippi, oyster bars in Louisiana and beachfront beer joints in Florida, to hear what is really being said to determine how much public disapproval is magnified by racial prejudice. Subtle or unstated prejudice is still damaging.

To quote Robert Half, “The search for someone to blame is always successful.” It is disastrous that the search for a fix for the Deep Water oil spill has not yet been found.

Comments from PR pros who wish to remain anonymous:  

It’s hard to promise transparency and then under deliver.  Why did it take almost two months for the president and the BP CEO to meet?  They should have gotten on the same page sooner and worked together rather than stirred the adversarial relationship.  I would have respected a “partner” more than I do this “Yeah, we kicked BP’s butt” posturing.

From a PR perspective, my suggestions include an address to the American people be held on site, not in the Oval Office.  Forget the dress pants and shirt.  Roll up your sleeves, and start working alongside everybody else sweating their butts off (this is where the A word might fit) to try to salvage any little piece of life as they knew it on a pre-BP oil spill basis.  Some of these people actually voted for him this time; he needs to show he cares, but if it’s not genuine, then that’s even worse.

What recommendations can you add?

A Picture’s Worth a 1,000 Lawsuits

It’s official.  Once the photos of helpless, oil-laden birds were published last week, BP officially became the new definition for a catastrophic disaster with no relief in sight –  in other words, a full-fledged cluster that Americans will no longer tolerate, forgive or forget.  And it’s all about image.

This image of the BP oil spill will outlive all of us.

When images of the disaster were contained to aerial shots that resembled finger painting, the country didn’t implode. Only a mild level of national angst was felt after learning that 11 fellow Americans were killed in the incident.  But when photos were shown of a small, helpless creature struggling to breath while ocean waves repeatedly worked to drown the poor thing, all bets were off.  Americans weren’t comfortable with that image.  The only thing worse would have been a photo of a dying puppy or newborn wallowing in the oil.

Think about other images that are permanently etched on our minds when we recall a monumental event:
*    An American being engulfed in flames jumping from a building on 9-11-01.

*    Hundreds of starving, filthy and sick horses being rescued from an inhumane owner.

*    Somalian rioters dragging surviving American soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu after their helicopter was shot down.

*    Families crying for help from their rooftops following Katrina.

*    And just to show you how old I am, Americans stopped supporting military intervention in Vietnam when they saw video of countless body bags of OUR soldiers being returned.

Images can be powerful. Dramatic visuals often prompt strong reactions, if not retaliation, from Americans because we’re not comfortable seeing our fellow man, mammals or birds suffer.  It’s part of what makes us unique as a country.

As public relations professionals, we can’t manipulate images.  But we can work with our organizations and clients to help them be prepared for a crisis, including those lasting images that so often make it into court rooms and settlement proceedings.

What images are instilled in your memory regarding newsworthy events?

Out of Tragedy Comes Triumph – Southern Style

Today’s guest blogger is Trey Campbell, Director of Communications for the Southwestern Company and 2010 President of the Nashville Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

In a week of highs and lows, the water being the high and our hearts sinking with every local news report being the low, Nashville and all of Middle Tennessee can be proud.  Out of tragedy comes triumph. 

A volunteer, one of thousands, helps in the recovery.

As for the Middle Tennessee public relations community, maybe the time will come when we’ll take a deep breath, reflecting on what could have been (or should have been) reported to a national audience.  Until the stench of river water is out of our town, though, it won’t get too much thought.  We’ve got work to do.

As PR professionals, many of whom have a journalism background, we know all too well what reporters and networks find newsworthy.   With that in mind, one of several local, baffling questions taxing many Middle Tennesseans is, “Why have the national media, to a certain extent, snubbed Nashville?”  

Is it that we are not perceived as a “major” market?  Is Nashville stereotyped by country music and pick-up trucks?  After all, what more do the media want?  I guess a $1.5 billion-plus flood of a capital city (estimates in Metro Davidson County alone) isn’t sexy enough to beat out two other lead stories for the week – the Times Square bombing attempt or the BP oil spill?  Where’s the conflict with a flood?  Not here.  No looting, no rioting, not much government or local red tape, no barriers to people getting help fast.  Mobilization took place, plans were put into action and thousands of people responded – as they should.  While the fright was real, the panic was subdued, washed away with the receding waters. 

My own parents, former Nashvillians who now live on Pensacola Beach and are no strangers to natural disasters, did not believe the extent of the flooding until they saw Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel had come for a swim… er, visit.  Is this the new standard of broadcast journalism for natural disasters?  “Oh, Jim’s here… must be official now… it’s NOW a situation.” 

Any PR professional will tell you the media have changed. This time, social media got the scoop – and kept it for days.  The YouTube videos, Facebook photos and text messages told the story before the national media fully caught on.  God bless CNN’s Anderson Cooper and a few other journalists who admitted to missing the boat (no pun intended… ok, yes, it was) after jumping aboard.  I’ve heard numerous accounts of friends and relatives of Nashvillians who had no idea how bad the flooding was until they saw photos on Facebook.  Why is that?

You know what?  It doesn’t matter anyway.  Speaking for the PR community, the time is not for wordsmithing or asking questions about the media’s whereabouts during a tragic, historic story in the history of a storied city.  The PR community, just like many other local businesses and organizations, is not concerned at this time with attention, but solutions.  The way a community the size of Nashville and over 50 other Tennessee counties has handled the situation speaks louder than any coverage ever will.  The benefits of coverage, however, are that it often leads more quickly to aid, dollars and other resources for recovery.  It’s not about the spotlight, it is about helping people, and the coverage sure could have helped.

“Hi, national media?  Meet Nashville.”  We are a big town with a small town feel; sophisticated, but down-to-earth; we are a cultural and higher education hub known as the “Athens of the South;” big business and corporate, global headquarters call this area home – as do two major league sports teams.  We areMusic City U.S.A.  What makes our community newsworthy? Maybe not a catastrophic flood, but how we dealt with it.  Again, it still doesn’t matter – the story is the people.  It usually is.  The devastation of our homes and iconic, historic buildings like the Grand Ole Opry House may have been second fiddle on any given news day last week.  But this ain’t no country song.  The people of Music City outplayed the devil for a “fiddle of gold” when reacting to a crisis and taking care of our own.  Report that.

A message to the national media from local PR practitioners who pitch you on a daily basis – “WE ARE NASHVILLE!  Pardon our mess, pleased to meetcha!”

Name Change: Last Resort to Rebranding

UPDATE:  March 23, 2010 - Community activist group ACORN announced it is folding amid falling revenues — six months after video footage showed some of its workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute. Several of its largest affiliates broke away this year and changed their names in a bid to ditch the tarnished image of their parent organization and restore revenue that ran dry in the wake of the video scandal.

ORIGINAL POST: March 15, 2010 – Local offices of the controversial ACORN group are changing their name to disassociate themselves from the brand beating the Chicago-based organization has taken in recent months. ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has 1,200 offices here and abroad, which means a lot of new business cards and letterhead are hitting the presses as we speak.

ACORN isn’t the first to undergo a name change.  Remember Philip Morris?  To distance itself from the bad image of cigarettes, the holding company is now called Altria.  How about Anderson Consulting?  It’s now Accenture as its initial name became synonymous with accounting scandal. Remember going to Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Now we go to KFC to avoid saying the word “fried” and to give ourselves the illusion we’re eating healthier fare, a few of the same reasons the restaurant’s name was changed. 

For most businesses, name changes are a last resort to stay afloat after a downward spiral in reputation.  However, the company’s leadership, operations, policies, attitudes and marketing dollars are some of the things that also help a company right its wrongs.  The same thing applies to ACORN chapters.  If the parent organization”s name isn’t changing, if senior management remains the same, if operations remain inconsistent and if the group continues to make the headlines, then a change on the front door sign won’t help.  It’s kinda like blaming the sinking of the Titanic on an iceburg when in fact, it was the decisions that led up to that moment that resulted in disaster.

What do you think?  Will these locally renamed chapters of ACORN continue to fall too close to their parental tree?

When The Fat Hits The Fan

In the “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” category, Southwest Airlines took a rare brand beating last week for kicking off an overweight passenger who happened to have 1.6 million followers on Twitter.  Film director and best-selling author Kevin Smith initially purchased two seats for himself, changed flights that only had one seat, but said he still managed to fit into the seat with belt buckled and armrests down – the key criteria to determine a person’s likelihood for ejection. Even so, the airline said he had to leave.  And that’s when the fat hit the fan. 

Southwest ejects big guy; big guy fights back

Smith started telling his followers on Twitter about his experience vowing to never fly on Southwest again, the airline began backpedaling also on Twitter, and the short-lived, but intense war of 140 characters ended with apologies and vouchers (which Smith declined) from the airline.

This is an excellent case of the importance of having a good reputation and an ample supply of goodwill BEFORE a crisis happens.  This is also another example of the power of a social media tool like Twitter, but that’s for another post.  While Southwest suffered a slight bruising over the incident, its ability to recover quickly is commendable, as in they were few legs to this story.  Southwest has the fewest customer complaints of any airline; its airfares are affordable; it doesn’t charge you for wanting to take your own clothes with you to your destination; and it’s still profitable.  Yes, last week’s incident with a man of many followers was wrong.  But in its totality, Southwest does a lot of things right.

Three lessons for Southwest: keep doing the right things, apply policies consistently, and be careful who you reject, especially if they have more Twitter followers than you do, and a new movie about to debut.  Are there other lessons that need to be added?

Network Entertainment: An Oxymoron

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I hate American Idol.  I’m probably the only person in the world who can’t stomach the show.  The one and only time I saw the program was during some auditions when they repeatedly showed close-ups of painfully sad individuals whose least problem in life was an inability to sing.  While this post isn’t about my taste in TV (I also hate Sex in the City, Survivor, Saving Grace and The Simpsons), it is about first impressions of network entertainment – and I use the term “entertainment” loosely.

Everybody understands the importance of first impressions.  To the viewer, the opening dialog, visuals and sounds are among the factors that must be compelling enough to capture one’s attention.  The situation also must be in keeping with that person’s values system, sense of morality and comfort level.  Nobody goes to a church or synagogue if they don’t agree with what is being taught.  It’s the same with first impressions of today’s programming on the Noise Box (as my Dad calls it).

Call me a dinosaur, fuddy-duddy or whatever. Today’s TV programming just seems either sleazy or sophomoric.  When I do watch television, I want to be entertained by well-written scripts, likeable characters and cerebral plots.  Then again, I’m a huge football fan so I’m glued to that Noise Box every weekend during the season.

What television shows left you with a good or bad first impression and why?  I’m open to a change in viewing habits.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, APR, is an independent public relations consultant with 25+ years of experience. Beginning as a journalist, she represents clients in health care, financial, technology and real estate. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, she serves as Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for her local PRSA Chapter.

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