Archive

July 2010

Recent thoughts on social media

I’ve done a couple of interviews on social media in recent months: Barbara Nixon’s Public Relations Matters (skype video interview); and Andy Donovan’s Tweep in Profile (‘old-fashioned-new-fashioned’ print).

And I want to say a big thank you to both of you for thinking of me!  It’s much appreciated.

And… if you want to hear more (watch out for the plug), I hope you’ll check out Inside PR, the weekly podcast where Gini Dietrich, Joe Thornley and I talk about what’s happening in PR and social media.

I’m always interested to hear what you think.

A small point of clarification

For anyone who’s read my last two posts, I just want to mention that, no… I am not transitioning this to a travel blog.

Thanks for sticking with me.

The other side of the coin

I feel privileged to be of the Toronto folks selected to spread the word about Virgin America’s new TO/LA or SF flights. Actually, when I first got the email offerng a ticket, I thought it was a scam.  It wasn’t!

So here I am, in-flight, and posting from 30,000 feet (or so). OK, I know this is no moon walk, but it’s feels pretty amazing being connected up on high.

What do I think of Virgin America?

Well, they’re friendly and helpful – from check-in to the gate to the plane – and they have a more casual and humourous attitude than some of the other airlines I fly. You see it in the FAA-required info video, produced as a quirky animation (‘if you’re one of the .00001% of the population that doesn’t know how to buckle a seatbelt, here’s how you do it…’).  From a design perspective, the interior reminded me of an old house renovated and modernized with stylish colours and accents. I liked having the option of chatting with people in other seats via the AV system – not that I did.  And of course, there’s the wi-fi… Would I fly it again? I guess I should really wait till we land before answering, but I so far absolutely. Would I recommend it to people? Yes.

As I was sitting in the airport waiting to board and thinking about my post, it occurred to me that it would be the result of being pitched and, like a media person PR firms invite to an event, there was a reciprocal, if implicit, expectation in place.  I would receive the free trip and, in exchange, hopefully be motivated to share my experience.

I first heard about this concept of reciprocity from author and psychologist Robert Cialdini. The essence is simple: if I give you something, you will feel an obligation to give me something in return.

And really that’s the core of media/blogger relations.  We provide a story/information/news and hope that we get editorial coverage.  I also wondered whether the reciprocity might make me (or anyone) a little kinder in my review (they gave me something after all).  Probably.

Because so many PR people are blogging, we often find ourselves on the other side of the request.  (We talked about this on Inside PR 2.13.)  And this gives us an opportunity to experience what a pitch feels like.  I always suggest that young practitioners try their hand at being published (and yes blogs count!) so they can gain an understanding of a journalist’s perspective more clearly. And hopefully, by empathizing and learning we will improve our approach.

But back to the matter at hand.   I’m ready for more pitches and I sure do like cars :).

Air Canada…I give up

I fly fairly regularly – not enough for the perks of super-elite status, but enough to be bumped around through the maze of disappointing service that is Air Canada.

Sometimes I’m surprised by a staff member who is helpful or friendly. Mostly it’s a mildly irritating experience at best.

However, I’m tired of complaining about the airline as they don’t listen or seem to care. So, this will be my final gripe. After that, I’m resigned to accept that lacklustre service is part of the brand.

But…on a recent visit to California, a couple of small things stood out as further examples of AC’s failure to communicate.

The first happened at the Toronto airport when the airline ‘changed equipment’, we discovered we’d lost our seats and, like many others, were no longer guaranteed a place on the flight.  I pleaded for clemency as I was part of a wedding party and would have missed the ceremony if they didn’t let us on.  In the end, a kind young man stepped forward and offered his seat. But much of the angst might have been avoided with a quick email informing passengers of the situation, the potential SNAFU and our options – we know they have our email address.

On the way home we were on-board and ordered snacks. The menu advertised a 10 per cent discount on purchases over $10 in June and July. However, when I got my receipt, it was for the full amount. Now, we’re not talking a lot of money here, but when I mentioned this to the flight attendant, he said  the machines must have been reprogrammed and wouldn’t allow the discount or a refund, but he could make up the difference in snacks.

This seems like a case where the AC bean-counters turned a  promise into something as worthless as a ‘hill of beans’ (that you could probably buy from them for $3).

A little later, the FA said AC almost never informs staff when equipment is changed and they only find out when passengers grumble. Here’s a thought: how about spending a little more effort communicating with flight attendants and front-line reps; empowering them with information that they, in turn, could share with the passengers.  Pretty basic stuff.

I’m just glad to hear Virgin Airlines is now flying out of Toronto. Thanks to Klout, I get a chance to sample the service later in the month. From what I’ve heard, this will be a welcome change. I can’t wait.

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