Today is an important anniversary for me. Ten years ago today I had surgery for prostate cancer. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m still here to talk about it 10 years later.
I was lucky because my doctor had me take a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test while I was still in my 40s. I was younger than the average prostate cancer patient. But thanks to my doctor and the PSA test, my cancer was detected and treated at an early stage.
Prostate cancer is a scary thing for men. It threatens our self-identity. We don’t like to talk about it. And that’s not good.
Prostate cancer can be beaten. But to do this, men have to be less squeamish about talking about it. We need to talk to their doctors about the risk and have ourselves tested. We also need more research into better methods of detection and treatment for those who are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
That’s why I’m participating this year in the Movember campaign. Through the month of November, I’ll be joining thousands of other men growing a moustache to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to raise money to fund research into its detection and treatment.
I hope you’ll take a minute to think about whether you can make a contribution to overcoming this disease. Your contribution can take many forms. You could make a donation to defeat prostate cancer. Or you could participate yourself in growing a mustache for the Movember campaign. But you can also make a contribution simply by talking about prostate cancer and raising awareness that it can be tested for and treated.
With your help, there will be more men like me who can say, “I beat prostate cancer.”
This is a story about a company that understands the importance of going above and beyond what’s expected to show that it cares about good customers.
I stay at Fairmont Hotels a lot. I’m sure they consider me a good customer. And this week they showed that they understand they can still surprise and delight a customer by giving him more than he expected.
I had planned to stay at the Fairmont Royal York on June 24. However, the G20 Leaders Summit is being held in Toronto that weekend. The Fairmont Royal York is one of the hotels being used to house delegates – and it’s inside the exclusion zone. (Think big ugly fence that circles a multi-block area in the heart of Toronto.)
So, the people at Fairmont phoned me to let me know that they could not honour my reservation. They offered to place me at another hotel. I indicated that, given the expected transportation and business disruptions that will accompany the G20 Summit, I was going to cancel my trip to Toronto that week.
Fairmont could have left it at that. But they didn’t. They offered to upgrade my room on my next stay at the Royal York. A nice gesture.
So, I wasn’t really suprised when they told me at check-in this week that they’d upgraded my room. But I was surprised at what Fairmont upgraded me to – the Governor General’s Suite! 1,830 square feet of luxury. A fireplace. A separate parlour. A dining table. Wet bar. Views around three sides of the hotel.
Fairmont definitely didn’t have to do something this spectacular. But they did. And that’s one of the reasons why I stay at Fairmont. If they can make a regular customer feel special, they do it.
As a frequent customer of many other companies, I find that very few stand out like Fairmont by doing the special extra thing for customers. All too many seem to believe that they will deliver exactly what you paid for, nothing more, nothing less. While this does match my expectations, I think that those latter companies are missing a great opportunity to build loyalty. They should learn from Fairmont.
With the occasional gesture like this, Fairmont ensures that I’ll not only be a faithful customer, but that I’ll also tell my circle about my experience. And in the long run, they’ll no doubt get much more business than it cost them to let a customer use an expensive suite at the price of a single room.
That seems like simple good business sense to me. And Fairmont has it. Why don’t more businesses do this type of thing?
Thornley Fallis has been engaged to help EnStream launch the Zoompass mobile payment service. (Zoompass users can request and transfer money between one another directly from their smartphones. They can also transfer money directly to a prepaid touchless MasterCard to make purchases.)
It’s our hope that, working as a team, we’ll be able to be present in the conversation from early in the morning to late at night seven days a week.
If we refer to Zoompass on our own Twitter accounts, we’ll insert “(client)” into the tweet to be sure that the reader, whether they know us or not, is alerted to the fact that we have a relationship with Zoompass.
I’m really excited about being part of the launch. I’ve been playing with Zoompass for a couple months prior to the launch and I think it will add a whole new function to my cellphone.
If you are curious about Zoompass and how you could use it, click over to the Zoompass Website to sign up to try it out. And once you start to use it, follow the Zoompass Twitter stream. If you ask a question or offer a comment there, you can be sure that we’ll respond to it.
Word of mouth happened when communication only happened in a social context. Marketing was developed in an ear of mass media that could be monopolized. They have a very different character.
Advertising is over. It’s a modern invention. It’s over because what we think of as “branding” is over. Branding is an artifact of broadcasting culture, of top down communications. The Internet is bringing this era to an end.
Our thinking about social media is skewed by our thinking about what was before.
Modern brands have replaced the real relationships we have with individuals and small businesses with “mythological” relationships that are constructed through mass media campaigns.
Mass production led to mass marketing which led to mass media.
Mass production depersonalizes the worker. Mass marketing desocializes. Mass media isolates the invidual audience member.
In the social media space, brands are deconstructed as soon as they are communicated. Value is created in a decentralized way by people using something and then communicating it to others.
Dumb marketers have tried to do traditional marketing in a viral way. They recruite Paris Hilton for burger campaigns. Burger sales fall. Paris Hilton’s reputation goes up. Marketing fails.
Marketers first reacted to new media by porting the old techniques to the new medium. Remember the concept of “sticky” websites? Did consumers really want to be portrayed as flies on flypaper?
When other tactics failed, marketers tried to fake it. And they were found out.
All of these efforts have been about trying to restore traditional brand storytelling into the new media. And it doesn’t work.
We are moving into a single communications space in which advertising will evolve into public relations. The difference between advertising and PR is the difference between fiction and nonfiction in a book store. Advertising is about creating fictions. PR is about explaining what is happening in the real world.
In a single communications space, a company can give consumers the social currency to talk about what the company does. They can reach out to people who share a passion for what the company does. And they can rely on those consumers to talk about this.
A metric of success for Word of Mouth should be how many people are applying for jobs at your company. How many people think it would be a great place to work?
The task of the smart company’s communication/PR department should be to provide people with the information they need to talk about their companies – social currency. That’s when a company achieves transparency – the breakdown of the walls between a company and its employees and consumers.
The new word of mouth expert will be the person who starts a discussion inside a company and then let’s the discussion proceed from there.
Wojnicki: What are the quick and inexpensive measurement tools that everyone should implement tomorrow?
Faulds: Google trends; Google Analytics; Twitter tracking
Hunter: Conduct surveys to test awareness and perceptions of WOM campaigns.
Wojnicki: Should Word of Mouth be campaign or something longer term? What are we measuring? Campaign results? Or longer term reputation?
Faulds: Include both organic and accelerated word of mouth.
Faulds: BzzAgent recruits consumers to try and discussion products. They measure reach: how many people can be reached? insights: what are people talking about and what are they saying? impact: Are we able to move people’s perceptions fo the brand. And more importantly, can we move sales? It’s easier to measure online WOM. But offline makes up 80-90% of WOM. So, we have to find ways to measure that effectively.
Hunter: Impact is the key net measure that should be measured across all programs. The impact I can make measured agains the dollars that were spent. This will enable us to compare campaigns against one another.
Wojnicki: Everybody’s jumping on the WOM bandwagon because it’s so pervasive and easily measured online. How do we measure the offline WOM.
Hunter; Consumer research will provide the answers for offline WOM. You have to invest in order to learn.
Faulds: Whenever there is a new medium out there, people have to measure it with old metrics. It takes some time for new metrics to be developed that fit the new medium. So, with Word of Mouth and “viral,” it will take some time to develop new better metrics.
David Usher: I consider myself a storyteller. And when I create music and experience online, I’m still telling a story.
As on artist, if you talk about marketing, you’re walking a fine line. Because the audience wants to know that I care pationately about what I’m doing. So that they can share that passion.
I use DavidUsher.com as a social networking integration page. I don’t try to control where the content is. I want people to see it wherever they want it.
Mitch Joel: How about the music industry?
David Usher: We still sell CDs. However, I work online and I make everything available there.
David Usher: Artists must learn how to engage their audiences. Some artists will do it themselves. Others will require some source of revenue and outside help to do this.
David Usher: Online social networks are good for artists. They help get the word out.
Mitch Joel: Talk about the process of making your new album and leveraging all the channels to promote it. Is it different from the era of the big labels?
David Usher: I releasing things all the time. I’m using social networks and all the tools to distribute them.
David Usher: What has happened to the music business will happen to all businesses. You must all learn to deal with empowered communities who will choose the content they want to receive.
David Usher: I don’t send advertising to my community. There’s a distrust of SPAM and I attempt never to offend my fans.
David Usher: People are fickle and move fast. You must be out there and engaged in order to spot these changes.
Mitch Joel: Do you care about metrics/measurement?
David Usher: I look at all the standard metrics. But I look closely at comments. That gives me a sense of what people really care about and think. I respond to comments as much as I can.
Audience question: How about artists like AC/DC doing big corporate deals with corporate brands like Starbucks and WalMart
David Usher: For AC/DC, it’s a smart move. They get their money guaranteed. Today, it’s hard to tell what will sell.
David Usher: There’s more of this being done, but the money is coming down. That’s because all artists want to get their music out there. So, there’s no shortage of opportunities for companies to be part of this.
Mitch Joel: Why would fans steal music?
David Usher: People don’t view it as stealing. And creators will have to adjust their thinking to take this into account. Especially as bandwidth continues to increase, the ability to get music will just increase.
David Usher: We sell shows. We’ve always sold shows. I was with EMI Records for 10 years and I don’t think we ever made a dollar off selling records.
David Usher: When RadioHead and established artists do things like giving away albums for free, it’s just a stunt. There’s no future model for anyone else. The new model must work for all the new bands.
David Usher: To use the new channels, you have to be a specific kind of artist. Most artists don’t want to spend time learning how to do this. I’m not a typical artist in the way that I spend a lot of time figuring this out and using the online channels. Not everyone wants to do this. So, we’re going to lost a lot of great artists and great music.
David Usher: The labels are essentially screwed. They are an old model. They’re trying to do a transition into this world. But they’re doing it without any experience in this world. In order to be successful, they have to buy their way in with a merger with other companies that understand this area. Many try to hire kids out of school to be their digital champions. But that won’t change the underlying nature of the company and the business.
David Usher: Online reputation for artists, like any company or product, can be affected quickly by a few people with strong views. The fact that I’m active online, that I’m in the space, enables me to participate in these conversations and be part of my own reputation. You cannot buy your way into these conversations quickly and suddenly. You need to be there for the longterm. Communities develop over a long time. You develop your voice and credibilty over a long time.
David Usher: The great thing about the Internet is that in the long tail of the world there are lots of people interested in something. They’re spread all over. So, we need to give them a place to come together.
Audience question: Is social media a fair game space for advertisers to be part of?
David Usher: Companies are having trouble because they’re used to push. Now, they have to understand that they must be part of conversations with people as people decide what they want to hear about.
David Usher: Social media is about people talking about ideas and exchaning ideas and authentic conversation. You have to care about what you’re talking about. Don’t advertise. Start a conversation about your passion.
David Usher: With mass media, content used to be pushed into a limited number of narrow streams/channel. Now, the Internet is like a vast flat pan. Advertisers will have to find ways to be effective ina totally different way.
Audience question: Your opinion on the Canadian copyright legislation and the Michael Geist / Fair Copyright campaign?
David Usher: I think [the efforts to police copyrigh online] is irrelevant. The genie is out of the bottle. Music is free. And the idea of suing people is not going to work. As an artist, i’d prefer people to pay for my music, but I don’t think I can change the way they think. I’ll work with the Internet as it is.
David Usher: What you want is people listening to and enjoying music. The more they listen, the better. Artists will have to find a way to profit from this.
Jay Moonah question: Is the rockstar system dead?
David Usher: There will always be people who come to the fore. But it’s changed in size and scope. It’s a bit more like a village now. I’m not sure whether we’ll have any more Madonnas. It’s a much different game.
David Usher: You need to be out front trying out the new channels and methods. Otherwise, you doom yourself to the diminishing returns of yesterday’s tools and channels. You have to decide. Do you want to be at the back of the pack or are you prepared to make an investment in testing the new.
[Comment From Nancy (aka citizensbanker] But there will always be some individuals particularly skilled at sifting through the mass of content and finding the gems. Won’t this ultimately result in a very similar ‘system’, just different players?
David Usher: I’m very interested in the space. What I look for is how things feed – how messages get out without being too intrusive. It’s the networks that do this well that are really appreciated.
Scott Brooks: Will we see Music as a Service along the lines of the Software as a Service?
David Usher: There are a lot of people trying these types of models. I’m building an application along these lines myself.
If you’re planning to be at the conference and you see me there, please grab me by the arm and say hello.
LAST MINUTE BONUS: Sean has offered me the opportunity to invite a some of my colleagues to register at a $50 discount. I’d like to share this offer with my blog community. If you read this post and register today to attend the conference, let me know and I’ll arrange for the $50 discount to be applied to your registration.
I travel more than I’d like to and I stay too way too many nights at hotels. Like every other frequent traveller, I know what it’s like to be stared through, made to feel like an anonymous widget being throughput at the security line, in the airport, on the plane.
But Fairmont Hotels delighted me tonight when, out of the blue, they upgraded me to a suite. Not just any suite, but the Prime Minister’s Suite. Now they’ve got a customer for life.
I stay at Fairmont Hotels because they were once a Canadian chain that traced its lineage back to CP Hotels. And they have some of the most unique properties in North America. All of the great old railroad hotels in Canada. The Chateau Frontenac . Banff Springs . Lake Louise . A few years ago, CP Hotels merged with Fairmont and picked up properties like the Copley Plaza in Boston and the Fairmont San Francisco . Yes, they aren’t the trendy properties that people flock to for something new. But they have something special. Every one of these hotels has character.
And Fairmont has worked hard to achieve a level of customer service that matches the architecture of their hotels. For the past two days, I was at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. And from the time I checked in through every meal to check out, I had the feeling that people actually cared about whether I was happy at their hotel. The Waterfront’s employees make it a special place by acting special. They really seem to like working at the Fairmont and they project a sense of pride in the hotel and the job they do there. Yes, it’s intangible. But I truly feel it.
So, that brings me to tonight. I flew from Vancouver to Toronto. And because I had a morning meeting, I could only take a mid day flight. All the direct flights were full. So, I had to route through Calgary. That means 8 hours with a connection. A long day after a meeting and an arrival after 10PM in Toronto.
(The fact that the first news I heard when I stepped into a taxi was that my hometown Ottawa Senators had just completed one of the greatest NHL chokes of all time by being eliminated in four straight games from the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Pittsburgh only added to my sense that this was one of those days…)
But when I pulled myself out of the taxi and went to the registration desk of the Fairmont Royal York my day changed completely.
First of all, Fabio Gamberdella, who frequently checks me in when I arrive at the hotel (Fairmont, you’ve got a great employee in Fabio) told me that my room has been upgraded from the standard room I’d reserved. That’s nice. (And it’s even nicer that Fabio addresses me by name and actually remembers me.)
But when I arrived at my room, I discover that I haven’t just been upgraded to a nicer room. I’ve been upgraded to the Prime Minister Suite. Let me say that again. The Prime Minister Suite. Nice. More than nice. Spectacular.
Fairmont didn’t need to do this. I was staying in one of the lowest priced rooms in the hotel on my corporate rate. So, I’m not exactly a high roller.
Fairmont could have simply left the room empty tonight and put me in the type of room I’d reserved. But they didn’t. And that was very, very smart of them.
Many other businesses would simply decide that because the higher value unit had not rented, they would simply leave it empty and deliver to the customer exactly what he had paid for.
But Fairmont has a database. And they know that I stay with them over 90 nights a year. And tonight Fairmont made me feel special. And that’s worth a lot. It’s definitely earned my loyalty for some time to come.
Now, the cynic would say that Fairmont should do a lot more for a frequent traveller who spends more than one in four nights every year at their hotels. And they do. Of course, I’m a member of their President’s Club frequent frequent guest program. And I receive all the privileges and perks that their marketing material promises.
But what was so special about tonight was that the upgrade was unasked for. Unexpected. And announced to me by Fabio, an employee who treated me like someone he recognizes.
Why aren’t more businesses smart like this in the way they treat their best customers?
And so that you know what I’m talking about, here’s a video that conveys how I feel about Fairmont tonight.
ProPR is authored by Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis and 76design. Thornley Fallis helps companies and organizations build relationships with customers, clients and stakeholders by integrating social media with public relations, creative design and word of mouth communications.