Campbell Live is proud of its advocacy journalism, something spelled out nicely by one of the show's reporters John Sellwood last year. When required, it gets its hands dirty, deals with serious issues and attempts to hold people to account. But there's often a bit of light with the shade and it loves to draw attention to the plight of others and call on its audience to help out. One such story was about Te Aroha couple Tobi Lawton and Sarah Lee, who bought a house that turned out to be infested with termites and was basically worthless. They were facing bankruptcy, so, in an act of desperation, they approached the media.
Campbell Live did a story, Kiwis donated around $200,000 via Givealittle, GJ Gardner's Hamilton/Waikato division offered to get involved and a range of other suppliers pitched in to deck out their new digs. Last night's half hour special was the culmination of that project and it was a great example of the power of positivity—and the marketing value of good, genuine corporate citizenship.
- Watch the show here.
After seeing the first story, GJ Gardner agreed to remove the family's old house, build a new three-bedroom home, manage the project and cover the shortfall when the donations were used up (Stuff reported back in March that shortfall was estimated to be around $120,000). Not surprisingly, the company got a whole heap of airtime during the show, with a tour of the house showing off their handiwork, interviews with the managing director Grant Porteous and local franchise owner Jeff de Leeuw and plenty of thank yous from John Campbell and the family. And at a time when the show has run a few stories about horror stories of Stonewood Homes customers, which the company has responded to with a two-year extension of its warranty, the contrast between the two was striking.
The cynics might suggest this was all an elaborate PR ploy from GJ Gardner to generate positive word of mouth, get a prime time show to draw attention to its handiwork and draw a few extra people to what could be described as a pseudo-show home. If it is, then good on them, because it's a win-win-win-win: good for the show (its Facebook page is, perhaps unusually, filled with positive comments), good for the viewers, good for the couple and good for GJ Gardner and its suppliers. But we asked a couple of people who work with GJ Gardner if there was any planning involved in this project and they were certain it was simply a gesture of kindness.
As Porteous summed up: "You don't always analyse something when it's a good thing to do. It was just a good thing to do quite simply. We're a very successful company, made successful by the support of New Zealanders and you need to return that to your communities and give a little bit back ... 5,000 New Zealanders put their hands into their pockets and put a lot of money up and we felt a responsibility to make sure that turned into something great."
That's a laudable attitude, and one other leaders would be wise to follow.