Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Remediation Marketing

Until I got to junior high school, it seemed that teachers would always mispronounce my name. Reyn (pronounced like Wren) came out as Reen, Roon, Rain, Run, Ryne etc.

It was embarrassing to correct them but not nearly as embarrassing as it is to call someone or something familiar by the wrong name which, however, doesn’t appear to phase flight attendants.

I can’t remember where I was actually headed at the time but I do remember feeling very chagrined to learn as I was buckling into my seat that I had mistakenly boarded a plane for Detroit.

Fortunately, it was one of those airports at the time where passengers for several flights fed into one jet-way before dividing off into paths to different airplanes, so I didn’t have far to go to correct my mistake.

That must be one reason flight attendants always announce the destination prior to closing the door to a commercial flight, such as one did yesterday, by announcing Raleigh-Durham International Airport before a flawless non-stop flight back home from Florida to Durham, North Carolina, where I live.

Unfortunately, that was the last time on that flight that the attendant or the pilot accurately identified our destination.  They gave us the flight time instead as “Raleigh,” the weather as “Raleigh,” the gate as “Raleigh” and even wished us a nice visit in “Raleigh” or wherever our destination might be.

They were trying to flatter us as you would by referring to someone by name but there is only one problem.  The plane wasn’t landing in Raleigh and only a small share of the passengers were headed there.  The weather sensor isn’t even located in Raleigh.

I stopped as I deplaned and whispered to one of the attendants a suggestion that would improve that flight in the future, “please don’t refer to this airport or the destinations it serves as “Raleigh” and gave her the reasons why.

Her initial response was “that’s just the way we do it!”  I smiled as I was turning away and I replied, “that’s fine, I still love flying Jetwest” and smiling in return she called out to me “I’ll make that suggestion to the lead attendant, but what should we call it?”

I answered, “RDU or Raleigh-Durham International Airport.”

When I first relocated to Durham during my now-concluded career in community-destination marketing, my job involved reversing any touch point where Durham’s identity or Durham assets were being compromised, including references to the airport which is jointly owned by Durham and Raleigh, but is actually located midway between the two cities in Morrisville, NC.

A core but often overlooked principle of community-destination marketing is that a dollar’s worth of “remediation marketing” is worth a million dollars of promotion.

Truncating the name of the airport to simply “Raleigh” was common back when I arrived in Durham to jump-start Durham community marketing, not only in so-called regional meetings, many held at the airport but in news articles, board meetings at the local Chamber of Commerce, news releases by the State Division of Tourism and even utterances by elected officials.

A man with a business in nearby Chapel Hill, who must have lived in Durham City or County or Raleigh or one of a dozen towns in Wake County or he wouldn’t have been appointed to the RDU Airport Authority, wrote a scathing and very personally defaming letter castigating me for requesting accurate references to the airport.

I shared the letter and my reply with my board members so they could cover my back.  Unbeknownst to me, the letter had been courtesy copied widely and it came to the attention of the late and great Dr. John Hope Franklin at Duke University, with whom I was not yet acquainted.

I had forgotten about the letter when, a few weeks later, I attended a large banquet where Dr. Franklin was to speak.  I was stunned when in his first words after being introduced Dr. Franklin asked me by name to stand while he described my still relatively new role and responsibilities in the community.

Saying nothing else about me, he then launched into a funny story about how he always corrected flight attendants and pilots who try to take him to “Raleigh.”  Then with a quick “thanks” he nodded for me to sit down.

Over the next two decades, I would still get plenty of attitude from some folks in Raleigh whenever I performed this very small part of my job, but far more often people would come up to me and ask, “tell me how to correct flight attendants the way Dr. John Hope Franklin does!”

No comments: