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Practicing Real-Time PR: The Right Gesture at the Right Time

by Ann Handley  |  
March 20, 2013

HubSpot managed (under the stewardship of my friend Laura "Pistachio" Fitton) to completely surprise me today with a custom care package delivered to my door. Which made me wonder, on behalf of MarketingProfs and for business in general: Are we all paying attention as much as we could? Do we take special opportunities to let our customers/advocates/fans know it? Do we practice right-time or real-time PR, in other words?

If you’ve emailed me in the last few days, then you know I’ve been felled by something I caught after a bunch of travel earlier this month. As I said in my humorous-cum-whiny out-of-office response, I believe it's with something serious—Influenza B, H1N1, SARS, the Plague, or a winter cold. (In truth, it’s the last one. But one has to prepare for the worst, don't you know....)

I’ve also whined about my illness on social networks, posting photos like this one on Facebook (Head on desk at 10 AM Monday morning. Uh-oh!). Somewhere in there, I guess I caught the attention of Laura, who sold her company to HubSpot a few years ago and now handles outreach of all types for them. She expressed sympathy online. I said thank you. That seemed that.

But it wasn’t. Today—five days into this lingering, loathsome, thoroughly wearisome sickness—a package arrived at my doorstep. Apparently the delivery guy from TaskRabbit was banging on the door for a while, but I didn’t hear, because I was busy expectorating in the shower.

(I’m sharing that last part because it provides what my high school writing teacher would call vivid detail. Gross, maybe. But it paints a picture, no?)

In the package was a pint of soup, a fifth of cough syrup (cherry... yum!), and (this was the part that blew me away the most) a bottle of 12-year-old Ararat, Armenian brandy. She specified Armenian brandy because my significant other is Armenian, and I had shared how I had been drinking hot toddies (for the first time in my life) spiked with the stuff. Also, let me give a shout out to the soup: Not to rip off Maurice Sendak's dénouement of Where the Wild Things Are—but it was still hot.

(How she got TaskRabbit to find Armenian brandy here in the Boston suburbs is beyond me. But that’s another post for another day on the wonders of TaskRabbit!)

To say the gesture made an impression on me is an understatement. First, it was incredibly... well, nice. But more than that, it was also human, relevant, and personal. It also ties into a larger program at HubSpot, launched around Valentine’s Day, to create “loveable” marketing: to create marketing people love (because it's helpful, or enjoyable, or useful), and to “Make Love Not Spam.”

So, yes, HubSpot and Laura did something nice for me. But they also extended and strengthened the “love” theme they’ve been developing all winter long—in this case, by simply paying attention.

One of the clear opportunities of social media is that we all have a chance to be more human brands, and that applies whether you’re in marketing, in PR, or in any kind of business online.

I also love that Laura took the opportunity to practice some “real-time PR” or “real-time outreach,” delivering the right thing to me at the right time.

Skeptics might argue that this kind of outreach isn’t scalable... and maybe it’s not. But what is scalable is the notion of listening, empathizing, and responding.

And maybe, once in a blue moon, that response might include brandy. If so, I’ll give you my address.

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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  • by Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) Thu Mar 21, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for the kind words Ann. We appreciate the relationship and it's fun to do random nice things. Plus, when we saw you share a picture of your hot toddy in our mug, we had to find a creative way to say thank you. Your creative and funny autoresponder and social shares were really the inspiration for this move.

  • by Lynn Miller Thu Mar 21, 2013 via blog

    Wondering if we have the ultimate intersection of old school direct mail/delivery with Internet. Hubspot & @pistachio lead with a delivery man? Who would have thunk it? Out of the box. Love it! :-)

    And hope you're feeling better soon, Ann!

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