Thought Leadership

Proactive PR: Anticipate, Then Accommodate

I’m writing this from my second, albeit short-term, “home” of Taipei, Taiwan. My wife and I have been coming here for our “R&R” for close to 40 years, and I never tire of the Taiwanese passion for innovation combined with love for tradition.

I’m all about innovation today, though, and this post is based on totally informal research…casual observation of the way in which local businesses have adjusted and adapted to consumers’ changing wishes.

In particular, I continue to be struck by the ease with which you can purchase theater tickets as well as train tickets…just pop in to your local convenience store…done. No taking extra time out of your day to travel somewhere inconvenient and then standing on line waiting (more-or-less) patiently for your turn.

But…more telling…the local 7-11 where I get my morning newspaper has adapted its beverage service to accommodate on-the-go customers.

This particular outlet is located conveniently within steps of the MRT (subway…another post for another time) station. Commuters are in a rush on their way to work…and they want a cup of coffee…but they don’t want to stop their headlong dash to go inside the store.

Solution? Set up a table outside the store with a constantly renewed supply of coffee-to-go and a salesclerk. Bingo!

This also reminds me of a similar innovation in the mid-1800s that I relish describing to my “Intro to Mass Comm” classes at Curry College. Newspaper magnate Benjamin Day noticed that his regular readers were in more and more of a rush each morning heading to work. More important, not enough of them were buying his newspaper…too much of a bother…too much trouble to stop, go into the store, and pay for the paper.

Enter the newsboy standing on the street corner hawking the New York Sun…much like my local 7-11 and its sidewalk coffee service.

And this concept is something we, as public relations representatives for clients or employers, can and should be providing.

Not standing on the corner selling newspapers or coffee (although sometimes that does sound appealing!).

The very nature of our profession as defined by PRSA is that it is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

We should be the eyes and ears of our employer. We should be tuned in to the customers’ thoughts and wishes. What do they want? What do they need? What will differentiate us from the competition and secure the customer’s loyalty?

We can and should provide meaningful input to the overall business operations mix on ways to enhance the “experience of being served.” And we can then use our communication skills to spread the word about that unique experience and attract even more customers.

By the way, I’ve also been religiously watching PBS’ “Mr. Selfridge” and finding myself (quietly) shouting “Yes!“ at some point in each episode as he hits on yet another idea that will attract customers to his store by offering innovative services that meet their expressed…and, sometimes,  unexpressed…needs.

Harry Selfridge got it. Benjamin Day got it. Both men sowed the seeds of proactive public relations…they anticipated customers’ wants and needs,  then accommodated and built “meaningful relationships”…just as I am seeing more and more businesses here in Taipei doing more and more frequently.

What are you doing for your customers?!?

About the author

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Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk was inducted into PRSA’s prestigious College of Fellows in 2009 and is one of just two actively-teaching college professors in Massachusetts to have earned this distinction. You can read more of Kirk’s musings at his blog “A Professor’s Thought” and follow him on Twitter @KirkHazlett.

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