Thursday, May 29, 2008

Serial Shows = Narrative

My mother used to tell me that nobody cares if you’re having a bad day. If you’re in a bad mood, act like you’re in a good mood. Before you know it, you will be.

Good advice that I have not always taken.

Today, Seth Godin takes up the standard with his advice that “the difference between a company that makes stuff and a company that markets is that the latter is conscious of the fact that the market demands a show.”

I would take that a step further. Mr. Godin’s “shows” are vignettes: little snapshots that create an impression for your customers, business partners, &c. You string together a series of those vignettes and you’ve got yourself a narrative.

This applies whether you’re an airline, a soup kitchen, a client service exec or an employee: A man sees what he expects to see and disregards the rest.

Let’s break it down: If your organization develops a reputation for lousy service, almost anything negative that happens to your customers feeds that narrative. Run out of Michelob on the red-eye? Cheap SOBs. Lose my suitcase out of 150,000 you moved today? Careless. Give my kid a wings pin on his first flight? That’s a lame attempt to make amends.

A cynic would call that “just PR.”

Guess what: It’s all PR. Every interaction with your customers, vendors &c. is an opportunity to help or hurt your relationships with them. To advance your preferred narrative. Or not.

Too macro? How about at your shop?

If you have an employee who always arrives prepared, on-time and looking sharp; he gets the benefit of the doubt. The associate who tends to use all of the sick-leave on Mondays and Fridays? Probably not a good idea to show up late the day after the Super Bowl.

Historical Example: America’s first PR guy was Benjamin Franklin. When his printing business was slow he didn’t sit in the window and stare at the street outside his shop. At dinner time – after regular business hours when his prospects were making their way to dinner or the theater – he would hang a sign on the door announcing he was out on deliveries and then hurried up and down the crowded avenues of Philly pushing wheelbarrows full of worthless paper.

Seems quaint, but after running into him a few times you can’t help but think that guy works hard.

And he gives good service.

That’s the beginning of a narrative.

The rest, you probably know.

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