air safety, Blogging, Facebook, flight attendant, Internet, LinkedIn, Management Practices, New Business World, pre-flight briefing, Public Image, Public Relations, Publicity, Rotary, Social Media, Social Networking, Southwest Airlines, SWA, Twitter
“….Welcome to Flight 2333 to Norfolk….”
August was a busy month of travel for me. On four round trips in one month I spent over 40 hours on sixteen Southwest Airline planes and heard the pre-flight safety briefing 19 times. That would theoretically make me one of the most knowledgeable passengers on flight safety. One would think that I could repeat the flight attendant patter verbatim by now. But I can’t. I travel enough that the safety briefing is merely spam to me.
“…We would like to point out a few of the safety features on this Boeing 737. To fasten your seat belt slide the metal tab in the buckle. To release the belt pull up on the tab on the top of the buckle…..”
I know that this briefing is intended to provide a safe traveling environment and maybe there is someone who is allowed out in public who doesn’t know how to buckle a seatbelt, but really, does mindless repetition make us safer? The answer is ‘no’. Repetition can be useful in helping the brain hardwire complex information, but when the information is perceived to be too basic most people stop listening.
The failure of the passenger pre-flight briefing to inform serves as a good lesson for business people. A lot of smart people should know this, but I still find business men and women who live by the erroneous assumption that the more they get their message out, the more successful will be their endeavor. I have one group that sends at least one email to me everyday, and sometimes more than one email. I support the purpose of this organization, but I am considering blocking their emails because they have become spam to me. When I open their email I read a few words and I file it away.
A ‘Hoser’ is what I call people who flood a Social Media tool with posts. On Twitter, I never read Tweets from someone who has multiple posts in quick succession. Sometimes people use applications that allow the Tweets to be posted on a schedule, which I think is a mistake. When I see the same face on five consecutive posts I consider ‘unfollowing’ them over reading what they have to say. The same is true on Facebook and LinkedIn.
To be successful Public Relations and Marketing professionals must accept that a message must be more than a pre-flight briefing. If the message is just about repetition then not only will the audience not get the information, they will be annoyed by it. This is a hard lesson for traditional media ‘experts’ because they lived through a time when the audience had to get spam to get the entertainment (commercials embedded in television shows or ads embedded in magazine/newspaper articles.) Traditional media was designed to force the audience to accept the spam, but the Social Media is oriented to the audience, not the advertiser, and this means the reader has the power of the ‘off’ switch. To be heard, and understood PR/Marketing professionals must reject the old annoying ways of the past and use style, not repetition to get the message out.
As for the airlines, the pre-flight briefing will never go away even though it is completely ineffective. The briefing has little to do with informing people and everything to do with asserting the authority of the flight attendants. By standing up and lecturing the passengers on what passengers can and can’t do, they are identifying themselves as the people in charge, which is important in the unlikely event of a crisis on the plane.
However, the problem is that when your message is largely being ignored because it lacks content, the risk is that passengers won’t listen to other announcements. That’s another important lesson for PR professionals.
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