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Southwest Airlines Shares Tips on Shaping Your Team to Strengthen Your Brand

Linda Rutherford, Vice President of Communication and Strategic Outreach at Southwest Airlines joined Vocus for the second time to educate us on shaping your team to strengthen your brand. Here’s a recap of the webinar:

Communication is now: it is real-time, multi-channel, consumer generated, a conversation and not just a one-way stream of info. In addition to it being unfiltered and subjective, communication is about more than servicing traditional media outlets–it is about managing influencers and activist consumers along with journalists. However, there are some more complex issues to tackle, such as a constant focus on costs and how to do more with less.

For Southwest Airlines, they decided to redefine their communications and converge employee communications, public relations and emerging media all into one communications team. They also added strategies to utilize storytelling that brings forth stories outside of “business as usual” in their community outreach, citizenship and philanthropy. Lastly, they developed a “surround sound” effort in the cities they serve.

After redefining your communications, you can merge and leverage efforts by using employees as field reporters, tease company announcements on twitter/facebook pages, pitch internal events to reporters and online friends, use all channels to communicate during a crisis and build a list of online influencers and incorporate them into company events.

Now who does what? Manage the message first, then the channel. One communicator leads each company initiative, instead of three. Each communicator uses their internal, external and online voice to create a communication strategy. The project leader utilizes a “needle list” to ensure all relevant channels are considered and covered—this technique helps maintain consistency by threading one message through all channels.

This is the point where convergence comes alive! Traditional PR spokespeople now create content for internal and online communication channels, trained employee communications professionals now write press releases and facilitate media interviews, and former emerging media team members now lead company initiatives.

An especially important take-away is to work cross-functionally: lead efforts to become a “communications clearinghouse” by organizing all messages in line with other company voices.

Working Cross Functionally

And let’s not forget the power of storytelling: engaging evangelists around user content that is interesting and relevant drives active support, which means the path to influence. Based on one person’s network of 170 contacts, 3 degrees of influence could reach close to 2 million people! It’s amazing to think that one person could have such a broad reach in a network.

But what if you are a non-profit, small company or organization or don’t have the resources? No big budget for marketing? Storytelling can scale – it’s all about the quality of the story. Simplicity can drive a story, so make storytelling central to your communications. Everyone has a story: Make your people ambassadors of your brand.

About Cision Contributor

This post was written by a guest Cision contributor.

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