I had two very different and very odd experiences with brands this past week, both of which demonstrated a point I’d never really thought much about before. Namely, they showed me that we should all be approaching relationships in our life with a way better Public Relations model than we’ve currently got going on.
The first was an outstanding positive: a brand, who I have never worked with professionally but who I have purchased from and mentioned on my instagram stories a few times, reached out to ask me how I was enjoying their product. They were actually seeking genuine feedback from their consumers about their products to see if they could improve. I raised a small concern, and they immediately took it on board and offered a solution. The other happened almost simultaneously and was initially less fun. A brand had reposted an image of mine without giving credit. I’d asked them to amend it. They apologised sincerely, addressed my concerns directly and suggested a possible solution if I were okay with it. I was, and it was all resolved neatly with me walking away feeling warm and fuzzy as opposed to frustrated and upset as I had been prior to their response.
The whole exchange also reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a pre-service teacher (a student teacher, for those of you unfamiliar with the new politically correct lingo – yes I am rolling my eyes) earlier that day. I’d been giving her feedback on a lesson and mentioned how I’d noticed her taking time to get to know the students.
“Relationship building is probably hands down the most important skill you can have as a teacher,” I told her, no doubt striking a pose that reflected the great wisdom my many years of experience and knowledge has afforded me (*cough*).
Despite my total lack of right to claim any life knowledge whatsoever, I think I was kind of right. It’s just that I missed the part where it’s valid in life, not just teaching or blogging.
Let’s take the opposite side of the PR/Customer Service spectrum to help illustrate my point. My recent dealings with an insurance company not to be named (largely because I won’t be shocked if it becomes a legal issue) has had me bounced between multiple call centre operators who have varied between extremely helpful to downright basically calling me a fraud to my face (or the phone equivalent of it I suppose). At this stage, they generally pretend they’ve solved the problem but in a way which is impossible to confirm for several business days at a time before I discover it’s actually not fixed and have to call again. Or they tell me a manager needs to call me back, and never does. I’m now reasonably sure their tactic is just to wear me down until I stop calling and trying to get what is rightfully mine. This was certainly a similar experience to what I got from both Telstra and Optus earlier this month – both of whom reduced me to literal tears of frustration.
But life doesn’t have to be this way.
Some people certainly apply the philosophy of the last example. They go through life acting like everyone is out to get them. They make things as difficult and as complicated as possible. They refuse to admit that they’re wrong when they are and you can provide evidence to suggest it. They draw out arguments for no viable reason. They refuse to pay their dues. These people are the kinds of co-workers, friends and family who leave you wanting to bang your head against the wall after a short conversation with them.
Yet not everyone is like this, nor do they need to be. If everyone applied the PR approach of the first two brands to their everyday lives, I feel we’d all spend a whole lot less time internally screaming.
Assume for a moment that we actually all sought out honest feedback, like the first brand did. Not just about our work but about how we’re treating others. Imagine we took that feedback on with grace and used it to better ourselves.
Imagine that, like the second brand, we admitted when we were wrong. But not only admitted it, but also took action to fix the wrongs we’d committed.
Relationships, you see, are key. If we took the same approach to life that these two brands took to their business, we’d find our relationships were a whole lot more fruitful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s easy to not be like the Telstras of the world. I flinch when I think of how many people I’ve encountered in life who I’ve probably made feel how the insurance company is currently making me feel. Yet I try to be more conscious of it. Now, I say shitty things, but sometimes I actually catch myself doing it and try to make it right. I’m not perfect – I won’t catch myself every time, but I make a concerted effort to try. I also, hallelujah, sometimes even manage to stop myself before I say or do the shitty thing. It’s taken several decades but at least we’re finally moving. But more importantly, I value my relationships more. I’ve come to understand the value of being surrounded by good people and spending time and effort fostering strong relationships and strong support networks. My network in my personal life is not vast but it is solid. My professional networks have supported me more times in my career than I could possibly count. I value the relationships that hold those networks together.
That second brand valued their relationship with bloggers – I’m just one and I’m small, but they recognised that I represent something else. I’m the little guy that some corporations will notoriously bully and take advantage of. They didn’t. They made a conscious choice not to step on me like an ant beneath their Goliath feet.
In my life, sometimes I’m the big corporation. Sometimes a student in my care is that little guy. Sometimes a friend is that little guy. Sometimes a family member. And in the flippancy and chaos that is everyday life, I think sometimes we need to check ourselves and watch where we’re putting our feet.
Because that, ultimately, is just good business.