Two Quick Points from My NSPRA Road Trip

First, a positive taxi cab story:

Edward L. Bernays, yes, that Edward L. Bernays, as in the father of public relations, used to tell us that if you wanted to know about the “news” in a local community, you should ask cab drivers to give you the scoop as you arrive in their towns. In my younger less reverent days, I used to think that will never work as most cabbies didn’t speak English. I have grown a lot since then in grasping insights from other languages, but today’s tech shortcuts can give us the background we need about issues in our cities.

But one cab driver story on my current road trip should make some of our members feel good about one of their programs. I always ask NSPRA’s regular cabbie, Carlos, about his son and school issues. Since school starts in a week for him, I asked if he was eager to begin the new school year.

The answer floored me as he mentioned his son is making the move to middle school and just two weeks ago he attended a special “Jump Start” program at “a very large” middle school. Carlos said it helped to arrest the fears of dealing with a locker, changing classes, navigating the seemingly endless hallways, etc. Parents and students met teachers, learned what was expected of them for the year ahead and the kids even worked on a few projects.

Building confidence in new middle school students and their parents is a great way to demonstrate that kids come first in your school system. A tip of the PR Hat to the Fairfax County Public School Administrators in Virginia and NSPRA members for building confidence in their education programs.

Second, a “research-based” tip from Southwest Airlines:

This next one may be a stretch and some may even say it is “udderly” ridiculous, but here goes:

After studying the working relationship between farmers and dairy cows, the cows given names by their farmers reaped more milk production over a ten-month period. The scientists believed that personal attention improves the cows’ comfort levels and reduces the fear of human contact. The report was in Southwest’s Spirit Magazine.

Psychologists and trainers dealing with human behavior have always told us to take a professional approach and personalize our interactions as best as we can. Clearly, knowing the names of students, staff, PTA leaders, community activists, and others can go a long way in developing more productive and caring relationships with all our key constituents.

However, there is one caution in using first names right from the start. You have to ease your way into it, and not be too familiar with someone you may not know. A bad example is easily found in the telemarketing industry. Telemarketers turn me off quickly, when they ask to speak to “Rich” when they call my home. It is normally a sign to get around a gatekeeper by faking a relationship, and that they are attempting to sell me something and wasting my time.  So the use of a first name can backfire without some legitimate time to build the relationship.

I guess we should ask the dairy farmers how long they knew their cows before they called them Bessie and Gertrude.

Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director

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