Monday, July 14, 2008

What’s it worth to you?

After a rough ride on the fast ferry from Quonset Point, RI to Martha’s Vineyard, an unhappy customer took the plane to Providence and a cab back to Quonset to get his car. Once there, he asked the ferry owner for his money back. The ferry owner told him to, basically, pound sand.

From there, the one-way passenger wrote a letter to the Providence Journal. So now, everyone can Google ‘Vineyard Fast Ferry from Quonset Point’ and get all the gory details in the letter which comes up fourth, before you even have to scroll down.

So what do you do? In the old days, “pound sand” was probably a safe answer. Now, the business owner may be better off very quietly refunding the handful of complaints along these lines (and they probably are very few). Refunding a dozen tickets a year is less harmful to the bottom line than having this type of letter on the web. However, once the refund number gets too high, you’d have to rethink things.

Of course, in a world where no good deed goes unpunished (and unpublished), the now happy ex-customer would probably reward your generosity by writing a letter to the paper praising you for graciously refunding their money - unleashing a deluge of similar requests.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

PR Opportunities in Disguise

Opportunities for great PR are everywhere. Take the local business weekly’s annual “40 Under 40” feature where – you probably already guessed it - they honor 40 local leaders who are under 40. Each of the honorees is interviewed, resulting in 40 nice, glowing profile stories in a special section of the paper.

Here’s what I tell my friends who usually make up about half the honorees every year (everybody knows everybody in Providence): What the paper is really doing is giving you an opportunity to help them write a great marketing piece about yourself. After it’s published, the opportunities are endless - post it on your website (company and personal), post it where you use social media, e-mail the link to friends, clients, prospects, etc.

A chance like this makes taking a few minutes to prepare for the interview a good idea. Think of the message you want to relay, then use your answers to reinforce your theme(s).

And one last thing – take a minute to go back and see what the reporter has done in the past. It can’t hurt to mention the “good job” they did on a recent story, or see what questions they’re inclined to ask. (BTW - The ‘Favorite Movie’ question is a perennial for 40 Under 40, so don’t kill the gravitas by blurting out “Talladega Nights!”)