About this time last week I posted a photo on FACEBOOK of my poor Bathsheba…the name a good friend of mine dubbed my 1997 Buick Riviera…with 214,000+ miles on it, but leather seats “more comfortable than any chair in my house” (so sayeth my sister), automatic/electric everything, even a tape player (for us folks who remember when Pong was a new thing), and that patented smooooooth-and-quiet Buick ride…which my father gushes over every time he’s in the passenger seat.
I was parked in a particular lot I hate at a particular post office I’m not particularly happy about as it always seems there’s a line and not enough people at the counter (hmm, sounds like a PR problem to me!). This lot has a very low ceiling and lots of very LARGE concrete pillars between the spots so getting your car in takes some effort..particularly if you’re parking a boat like my Riviera.
Leaving the lot after having stood in line for 20 minutes to pick up a package, I wasn’t “alert at all times” as my father always said, was momentarily distracted by a pedestrian and 1.2 seconds later, I have a large dent in my car and my driver side mirror is hanging off.
Baseball, it is said, is a game of inches. Evidently so are accidents.
I won’t bore everyone with all the details involving garages, mechanics, body work people, insurers, claims people, appraisal people, AAA agents, etc., but if you’ve ever gone through this, you know it’s no picnic, unless your idea of picnic involves no food and a large amount of suffering.
Anyway, I’ve been on FACEBOOK…gee, can’t say, at least five years or so…and in all that time, nothing I’ve posted has gotten more response than this pix of my poor bashed up car. I received more than 30 comments, from condolences, to insistent appeals not to sell the car, to advice on top flight body work shops.
So why is this? Why should so many people comment about a car when I’ve posted on items like breast cancer research, care-giving, mental health issues—in other words, all manner of topics that lots of people would find interesting, controversial, worthy of comment.
My busted up old car gets the most attention. Why?
This is where the “PR part” of this blog comes to play.
One must be cognizant of those issues and items that resonate with people. And as anyone who has done their RESEARCH (there’s that word again…a keystone in the PR foundation!) knows, Americans are forever in love with their cars.
Other than a home purchase, for the vast majority of Americans, a car purchase will be the most expensive thing they buy. Typically there’s a lot of research involved and these mechanical marvels resonate with us in both practical and emotional ways. Practical, we want reliability, good gas mileage, power, ease of handling, simple maintenance. Emotionally, we want it to be COOL, look good, make friends and neighbors jealous, show that we care about the environment (hence, the hybrid…which also falls into the “practical” category because of the great MPG I’m now getting!).
It’s been said that a car is a mechanical extension of one’s biological frame, particularly if you’re a man, i.e. well endowed men don’t need to drive Jaguars quite so much, if you get my drift.
While recent research indicates that our love affair with the automobile may have peaked—I read an article recently that noted Americans aren’t driving as much as they once did as a younger generation puts more emphasis on community and the environment , hence the rise in use of public transportation, bicycling, alternative modes of transport (Segways anyone?) and services like ZipCars—it’s still a subject of powerful interest on multiple levels.
Whatever industry you are in, if you are going to offer effective PR counsel, you need to be aware of these “red button issues,” things that ring a bell with people of all walks of life (whether you’re an 18 year old African American or a 70 year old Asian woman or a 45 year old Caucasian, whether you make $40K or $400K per year, no matter whether you live in Kansas or New York City, cars are something that impact your life!), so you can be prepared should a problem arise.
Being ready, having your crisis communication plan in place, by having done your research and made the proper contacts, may make the difference between a “fender bender” and a “total loss”…or even no accident at all!