It isn’t often that I get to write a post like this – one that celebrates an organization that authentically lives its brand and keeps its brand promise. However – I just had (yet another) excellent experience with WestJet and I think they deserve to be acknowledged for this experience and for consistently behaving in an authentic, respectable and customer-focused manner.

I recently flew my father and his wife into Vancouver for a visit. My dad had a bad fall last year, shattering his femur, and he is still recovering from that. He still has some mobility issues, so when I booked his flights, I requested a wheelchair.

Well, I have to say, WestJet treated my dad and his wife like royalty. They were treated with respect and they were well taken care of – and not on WestJet’s schedule, on their schedule. They got to the airport early and because of a bad snow storm in Ontario, their flight was delayed – they were taken to a restaurant and were told to take their time; the person who was chauffeuring them around the Toronto airport in one of the carts would come back when they were done and take them to the gate.

On the return flight, it was the same approach – completely customer service focused. Everyone from the person at the ticketing counter to the person loading the plane to the flight attendants to the person who helped them get their luggage treated them with respect and went out of their way to help them.

Every airline has planes that get delayed or issues that happen, and WestJet is no different. But I have to say, as a traveller and a customer, even when stuff happens, I have found WestJet to be responsive, to be accountable and to focus on what they can do to make me, as the customer, feel better about the experience.

When given the option, I choose to travel WestJet. I am loyal to this airline because I feel that the people who work there actually care about me as a customer. That means something in this day and age, and the result is customer loyalty.

Now, I happen to be a PR professional. So I am always looking at customer service, how the staff communicates the brand promise and what that means for public relations and building trust and loyalty with their target market. WestJet does it right and everyone in that organization deserves to be congratulated. I have said time and time again that you can create a great brand and develop a fabulous brand promise, but if the people who work there don’t bring that brand promise to life every day, then you are going to have an issue. WestJet isn’t going to have that issue – because they live their brand authentically and they have engaged and inspired the people who work there with their brand promise. Not an easy thing to do, but so valuable.

Thanks WestJet – not only are you our favourite Canadian airline, you are also a great example of an excellent brand being brought to life one person at a time.

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One of the highlights of my day is the half hour I have in the early morning – before the phones start ringing and emails come in – to read some of my favourite blogs. At the top of that list is Peter Shankman’s blog. Peter is an interesting guy. He is exceptionally smart (and I’m talking real life smart, not just “here’s the theory” smart), he is witty, down-to-earth and speaks his mind (and he’s usually right). Even when you might not agree with him – he makes you think. He “gets it” – social media, communication, marketing, networking – and he is an excellent presenter. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at the Ragan Social Media for Communicators Conference a few years ago and he was the highlight of the conference.

Peter has a pretty high profile in the world of social media and communication. He takes risks, he puts himself out there and he has accomplished a great deal because of that (blended with the fact that he really knows his stuff). Fearless and strategic – it’s a kick-ass combination. Oh yeah, and he sky dives – a lot. Which just makes him that much more interesting as far as I am concerned.

It’s been a busy few days at AHA, and I haven’t had a chance to read my favourite blogs. I took a few minutes this morning and the first one I went to was Peter’s. As I was reading it, I realized that I should recommend him to the people who read our AHA blog. I need to share this online treasure of information.

I know many of you already follow Peter, but if you don’t you should. He is a wealth of knowledge and has an excellent – if sometimes snarky – attitude (which is really charming as long as, I imagine, it isn’t aimed at you). He is authentic, he shares a lot of relevant information, and has a perspective that is of huge value in this confusing world of marketing and communication that we work in. He is out there taking on the world, living on his own terms and is very successful at it.

If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, take it. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog!

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Over the weekend, I had dinner with friends and the talk turned to the ethics of public relations. Their son is in grade 10 and he wants to be a journalist, so we often have discussions about public relations, journalism and the shift that both fields are going through right now. We got onto the topic of the importance of ethics in a person’s life. Then it turned to what happens when an organization has an issue – how they are able to be ethical and manage their reputation.

The values of an organization and the ethics of the senior team are key drivers in how the organization does business. Having solid values and ethics doesn’t mean that they will never face an issue or a crisis, but it does mean that they will likely deal with it in a respectful, productive, transparent manner. As a communicator, our role is to communicate internally and externally about what is being done. Often, we are brought into the planning because we can provide the perspective of stakeholders and ask the tough questions that need to be asked.

Please visit our blog to read the rest of the post.

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There have been good articles written recently (The Globe and Mail and BC Business) that talk about Air Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) labour negotiations and how Facebook played a strong role. Both articles are worth a read, whether you work in a union environment or not. They are proof that social media is a key tool in your organization’s communication. It’s here to stay. Even if you are engaging and facilitating open and relevant discussion, groups will still form (and are forming at this very moment) without your input. At the very least, you need to know about them.

At AHA, we have done a great deal of work studying online behaviour relevant to communication. What is being said and discussed online is a key component for an organization – from building and managing its reputation to dealing with potential issues and crisis communication. However, there are still large organizations that have not yet come to terms with this for some reason. Some aren’t even monitoring what is being said or who is saying it. More and more we are seeing issues come up, not from an outside source, but through online discussions by employees.

Please visit our blog to read the rest of the post.

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There are times when good is good enough. This may sound odd coming from a small agency that prides itself on exceeding expectations and delivering excellence every single time. It might even sound a little hypocritical. I think it’s realistic and smart business.

There are times when the excellence comes in the moving forward component – in joining the conversation, in engaging with stakeholders, in reaching out and opening the door for discussion. Over the years, I have seen several client organizations get stuck – and I mean stuck – in rewriting speeches, articles or entire websites over and over again because they weren’t perfect. I have seen communications teams fracture over this type of approach. And it doesn’t mean the work wasn’t good or that it wouldn’t have been effective.

This type of dysfunction is more about the organization than about the work. Sometimes it’s a weird form of passive aggressive behavior. Other times it’s because someone (or several people) are paralyzed by the fear of moving forward and making a mistake. I can tell you that in many situations, the mistake is in doing nothing.

It is easy to hide behind perfection, the lawyers, or to create a committee that can’t agree and so nothing moves forward. When that happens, it isn’t about the communications strategy or initiatives, it is a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed. It’s about leadership and teamwork.

Check out the great piece on Ragan.com entitled: 6 lame excuses for not communicating for more on this topic.

How does your organization behave? Are you good enough?

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