When a pie in the face is good for PR

You know the drill: the mechanic’s car is perpetually broken and the builder’s deck is half finished. Who has time when your expertise is in hot demand elsewhere?

Truth be told, I’m happy to procrastinate with a website update for the time being. But what really interests me right now is whether we are making the right investment in communications with our own people—and, alongside our clients, with their people.

If you’ve been reading the papers lately, you’ll know that 7 out of 10 employees are restless and employment commentators are filling column inches with a clear warning: all over the country, in every sector, people are planning to jump ship, which means great people are waltzing out the door. As a result, I find myself having more and more conversations about internal PR and the significance of a good investment, both to retain highly valued people, and flag down those new stars waltzing on by.

Some of the best internal PR is rarely acknowledged as such. Moreover, companies put their efforts down to ‘culture’ or activities coordinated by clever, organised HR people. But a programme of engagement with staff that facilitates shared vision and brings company values to life is exactly that —top notch PR, particularly when that engagement sparks widespread storytelling aligned to the brand.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a valid place for a well-designed intranet and ‘a message from the chief executive’ but experiential engagement is all the rage for a good reason. At the Melbourne HQ of job website SEEK, large scale pranks are part of the fabric, engineered to do nothing more than to get everyone to stop work and have a laugh. Unsuspecting team members were lured to the foyer under the pretence of chocolaty treats, only to find themselves on the sticky end of a cream pie fight. Fun is a key value for the brand, and SEEK has chosen to invest in the experience of it, with and for their people. As a result the company has a team of highly engaged brand advocates – hundreds of them.

I wonder how many people the staff told about their office pie fight, and how many of those people told other people. There are theories of measurement on word of mouth impact that would predict many thousands of people have heard this tale, but that’s another story.

Let’s just agree that good yarns get told, and of course now I’m telling you, which is more than a little food for thought.

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