PR explains how to leverage this powerful tool
We’ve all seen those wonderfully warm and fuzzy stories on the news or social media that highlight how a waitress received a $1,000 tip from a complete stranger or an ill child got a special, unexpected visit from his favorite celebrity. These random acts of kindness (RAKs) move the human spirit and are said to restore faith in humanity.
Since the start of the economic downturn, businesses have been forced to alter their practices (i.e. airlines charging for luggage, meals and snacks) to stay relatively profitable and able to pay their employees. Many “free luxuries” enjoyed by customers have gone the way of the dinosaur, so successful businesses are actively seeking more creative methods of building brand loyalty – incorporating points and cash-back programs – in an effort to regain consumer faith. In short, it’s never been easier to surprise and delight customers. Now, a growing number of businesses are learning that by doing random nice things for customers, they’re also creating a population of loyal followers, proponents, champions and positive mouthpieces for their brands and products.
RAKs are an authentic way of doing more for your customers. Furthermore, these acts stimulate positive emotions, often resulting in positive social media posts that users then share across limitless screens. Doing good not only increases loyal customer followings, it also often benefits the company’s bottom line and engenders positive public relations.
When Old Navy celebrated its birthday, the company sent its branded credit card holders an unexpected treat via postal mail: a celebratory cupcake along with generous discount coupons surrounding a “Have your cake and a sweet deal too!” promotion. It was creatively attached to a social media campaign and, given its packaging, no doubt caught recipients by surprise. Who doesn’t love a little sweet treat?
McDonald’s has gotten in on the fun, too. As 2015 rolled around, the restaurant extended its brand campaign “Lovin’ It” into a pre-SuperBowl “Pay with Lovin’” RAK promotion through which customers paid for their meals with acts of love and kindness – a simple pay-it-forward principle. This promotion netted a sizable amount of press attention as well, thus providing the fast food giant an unplanned feel-good public relations boost.
Even the simplest gesture – an email saying “thank you for your business,” or perhaps an unexpected small token inside a customer’s shipment – can earn a lot of positive mileage, and the word-of-mouth effect can be equally as powerful.
When considering a random act of kindness campaign or promotion, be sure to follow these guidelines to make the most of the opportunity:
Most importantly, be authentic in the giving.
If your marketing team focuses more on the expense than its human potential, stop the train and exit. But if everyone in the room understands that RAKs are an extension of positive customer service that often nets the greatest rewards and benefits, press on. You aren’t doing this to line your pockets with more green; you’re implementing RAKs to prove to your current customers that you value them. Don’t, under any circumstances, expect anything in return.
Consider what comes naturally.
Courtesy of the active digital realm, we’re connected in more ways than one, especially in social media environments. People are ready and willing to share their feelings and opinions, allowing brands to gain all sorts of insights into customer behavior, moods and purchasing practices without invading privacy. Once you understand your brand and your customers, you’ll likely find many opportunities to connect in very unique and organic ways. For example, if you operate a bakery that specializes in cakes, consider including a half-dozen mini cupcakes or cake pops along with a note of appreciation with every cake order.
Personalize, but don’t be invasive.
Since many brands collect basic information on their customers (i.e. first and last name), carrying out an act of kindness can be as easy as a handwritten thank-you note in the mail with the recipient’s name on it. Recognizing someone’s name, interestingly, does a lot to make people feel a genuine connection. Just think of the series Cheers and how everyone shouted “Norm” when he entered the bar. He was viewed as a regular and treated with respect and adoration – which, apparently, kept him coming back.
Make it easy to share.
Do this and your RAK will likely reach beyond your targeted customer base. Consider adding a social media component (hashtag, link or simple request to pin) and your RAK may go viral.
Random acts of kindness are thoughtful gestures not exclusively reserved for one particular demographic. Average Joes, celebrities and businesses alike all have the same opportunity to do something nice for others with no expectation of anything on the back end. Because they’re unexpected and so appreciated, the results go beyond making someone’s day; they could even go on to start a movement, with you at its center.
To learn more about how your business can benefit from your own RAK program, contact Axia Public Relations at 888-PR-FIRM-8. We’ll prove to you how powerful RAKs can be as we generously pay for your coffee.
Wendy Bulawa Agudelo has more than 15 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and non-profit public relations. In addition to serving on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force, Wendy enjoys cooking and rooting for her favorite New England sports teams.
Featured image credit: 123rf.com