Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New York Comedian Proves Universal Desire to Lend a Hand

This video stirred my nostalgia for New York. I lived in the city for almost three years, working as a reporter for the Associated Press and enjoying some great adventures from my closet of an apartment in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s the free-spirited sense of spontaneity among its residents that I miss most, and that is demonstrated in this short, offbeat film. Spontaneity exists elsewhere, too, but nowhere else will you find quite the kind of unlikely interactions among strangers that you see in New York.

In the clip, comedian Mark Malkoff sets out to be transported from the southernmost end of Manhattan to the northernmost end, only by having people carry him. They can give him a piggy back, hold him like a baby, hoist him over their shoulders or share his weight with a group – whatever it takes to help Malkoff make his destination without having to move himself.

His success depends on the kindness and open-mindedness of complete strangers in a city often characterized as unfriendly. But those of us who have actually lived there know otherwise. Sure, folks might be too busy or focused to nod and smile to every passerby. They might be abrasive in a crowd or push past you on the subway. But when it comes to doing something outlandish for a complete stranger’s pet project? Many of them espouse a healthy “why not?” attitude – they’re up for it “just because.”

“I am proving to the world that New York is a nice place,” Malkoff says at the beginning of the video. He then proceeds to ask random people on the street to carry him a few feet, a few blocks, whatever they can manage.

During the course of his quest, not only do more than 150 people offer to assist him up the island, but many of them open up and tell him about their families, relationships or what they’re cooking for dinner. He receives cooperation from a diverse array of pedestrians – men, women, young, old, individuals, couples and large groups, and a cross-section of races and ethnicities. He even takes advantage of the virtual community, sending out Tweets when his luck runs thin on the street. People on Twitter see his cries for help and come to his aid.

All in all, it’s a good lesson in assuming the best of people and managing to rally them toward a common cause in which they have very little personal investment.

On a far more serious note, we have been seeing a lot of this public spirit during the last few weeks in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. The amount of money that has poured into the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations since the devastation hit has been amazing.

How does this translate to good PR? Good PR depends on knowing your public. Good customer service, good marketing, good advertising, successful media campaigns all have one thing in common: They know their audience and treat them with respect.

Assume the best of people, and in many cases they’ll rise to the occasion. Just who is your audience? It could be the next person who shells out a generous donation for victims of a natural disaster in a foreign country, or the next person who offers to carry a complete stranger on his back for no good reason.

Malkoff dared to assume that New Yorkers – so often mislabeled as mean and uncaring – were actually nice and supportive. As a result, he got carried all the way to 140th Street. Imagine what might happen if you or your company did likewise, and assumed the best of people?

Posted by Hillary Rhodes

No comments: