Learning About The Generosity Economy In a Marketing Class

As part of our class assignments last week, one half of the students were assigned to write about companies that were engaging with customers well, and the other half of the students were to pick companies that weren’t. Two students decided to write about Southwest Airlines digital media engagement. After meeting Paula Berg a few years ago at Social Fresh Nashville, It thought that I would take the shot in the dark, so on Saturday I shot her a DM:

@jfloyd: Hey, I’m teaching an MBA class re: digital marketing. this week many students blogged @ Southwest. curious would you FaceTime my class?

@PaulaBerg: Just name the date.  Happy to assist!

I was really excited about this special treat, and Paula made my weekend by agreeing to join us.

Of course, Paula is now with Linhart Public Relations, and she made clear that while she still worked on the Southwest account, she would be glad to make a connection with someone on the current Southwest team. However, since she was at Southwest in the early days of social media engagement, I really wanted to hear her perspective. My wager was right, she brought great perspective to the class.

Paula Berg

Here are are few nuggets that Paula shared:

  • Let go. In this particular case, Southwest had aired Airline on A&E for three years before starting their blog. TLC allowed Southwest no editorial control, so when it came time to find the next level of customer engagement–blogging–letting go of the editorial control was not as difficult.
  • Put ambassadors on the front lines. When the team at Southwest began to engage in social media, they had more than 90 years combined experience with the company. They knew the brand; they understand the culture; and they knew how to be brand ambassadors.
  • Knowing technology is not enough. Related to the previous point, just because someone knows “how” to use the technology does not necessarily equate to knowing how to communicate.
  • Be the Brand. Southwest Airlines has one of the best core ideologies of any company, and I frequently use them as examples in client retreats. The core values, purpose and brand promise are known and lived by everyone in the company–at every level. Therefore, you don’t have to write a tome of rules and policies about how to conduct yourselves online–be the brand.

I think it’s awesome that a tweet on a Saturday afternoon brought Paula half way across the country for our class on Monday. I love technology, but most of all, I love that the social economy is built on “what can I do for you” not “what’s in it for me.” Thanks Paula!

updated 9/11/12 11:35 PM – Corrected the original series name from On the Fly to Airline. 

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at jeremyfloyd.com and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.

  • Sam Knight

    Great experience with Paula “in our class”! I loved that she explained Southwest believes in the importance of communication without seeing the direct impact of ROI. If the communication is done correctly and is in line with the brand’s strategy, social media and online engagement can go a long way beyond just the dollar signs.

    Also – I think she was talking about the show “Airline” on A&E that aired many years ago. TLC’s “On the Fly” is less than a year old, although both are reality shows about Southwest. http://kowb1290.com/tlc-southwest-airlines-team-up-for-new-reality-tv-series-on-the-fly/

  • Thanks Sam! I couldn’t remember the exact essence of her ROI comments. You nailed it.
    You’re right! I updated the post to reflect “Airline.”

  • Ben Schnell

    Paula had great things to say, but the thing I learned the most from her was from her example. Her willingness to FaceTime with our class demonstrates the spirit of what true digital marketing is really all about: the willingness to communicate personally and authentically. This Mr. Floyd is full of great surprises!

  • Chris

    Talking about companies and their marketing strategies is pretty typical for an MBA class. Not so typical is actually talking through the strategies with that company’s former Manager of Emerging Media via video-conference.

    Big thanks to both Jeremy Floyd and Paula Berg for taking the time to speak with us.

  • Definitely, Ben. Paula exhibited the genuineness of the social sphere. Mad props to Paula.

  • Thanks Chris!

  • Ashley Frizzell

    I really enjoyed listening to Paula. She is definitly an innovator when it comes to keeping the business world in the loop with social media, and a greate role model to the business women of this world. I was really inspired by her. In your point about knowing the technology is not enough… I really agree with this… Alot of the world knows the basics but not really how to use it to meet their best benefit. It was refreshing to hear that this is a problem amongst major companies. I strongly feel that people do not gain a full understanding about what different technologies can do to meet their business need as a whole, and implement these changes. For example, SharePoint can do so many things to communicate amongst different organizations in a company about what is going, it can be set up to run different processes and notify people of changes that are important to their work life, and it can be used to gather informaiton from customers that can help each organization become a necessacity across the company. All social media has a way to impact a business both positivley and negatively, but these comanpies really need to understand the ins and outs of the power of technology. In order to do this, they need people like Paula to explain exactly how this technology can be used to meet their business needs, and develop a positive market for them to drive in customers and get their names out there. She is awesome!

  • Ashley Frizzell

    and on that note from what i said.. she would be a really great brain to pick about how the business world operates

  • Just being a part of an experience such as this shows you that technology and the social aspect of connecting with others anywhere is revolutionary. Jeremy Floyd’s approch to learning is a style new and refreshing to see on UTC’s campus.