Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hey Guys, An Hour Until We Land

On my recent cross country flight, something funky happened. Not funky with the airplane, but with the head steward. I didn't really notice it fully until we were close to landing, when he came onto the loudspeaker, interrupted the dramatic ending of "My Life in Ruins," which was no great loss as this movie clearly was a Greek tragedy anyway, and announced to the cabin: "Hey guys, just a heads up that we'll be landing in an hour." There was a vague chuckle amongst the passengers, and then we moved onto the movie we wished was "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

I was laughing too, and wasn't quite sure why. Perhaps it was the casualness of the way he addressed us. And then I realized he had done that throughout the flight, at one point addressing us passengers as "Y-o-w," and then at another point saying, what sounded like, "Hey guys and gals."

So I got to thinking I had never been addressed that way on a plane before, and have to say I didn't like it. While a little mid-air humor can be nice, in this instance I made a correlation between the relaxed nature of the communication with other things that perhaps shouldn't have been relaxed, such as safety code, procedures, precautions -- in short: protocol. It also bothered me that this particular airline had always been formal in its communications, and suddenly there was a change in tone, thereby confusing its brand.

This is an example of the power of verbal communication, and how the smallest innuendo can be taken a certain way and form an impression. The same is true for written communications. Your style and tone should be consistent, and should match your brand. If you suddenly change in midstream, it creates the impression that you don't know your audience, and it confuses your brand. You can't afford to have multiple personality disorder in your business, or you'll more then likely end up with -- you guessed it - a bag of peanuts.

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