Service Minded

Debra Helwig on Marketing & Leadership in Professional Services

Spreading Your Message: A Lesson from United Breaks Guitars

Posted by debrahelwig on July 9, 2009

presskit5_DavidCarrollI’m utterly fascinated by the latest buzz in marketing and social media circles — musician Dave Carroll and his saga United Breaks Guitars.

If you don’t know the tale, here it is in a nutshell:

United Airlines employees broke Dave’s guitar when he was flying through Chicago. It was clearly the airline’s fault, but even after nine months of jumping through hoops, United still refused to pay Dave’s claim.

Problems like Dave’s are actually a pretty common occurrence with airlines. Luggage gets lost; stuff gets broken. So why is the world paying attention to Dave’s story?

Because Dave wrote a song about it. A really good and funny song. And he posted it to YouTube.

As of this writing, the video has already been viewed over 800,000 times, and the hashtag #united on Twitter is buzzing with praise for the song and strong criticism for the airline. Ouch, United.

The social media pundits out there are shouting that this is proof of the power of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and the like. “New power to the people!” They shout.

Well, yes. Sort of.

Thanks to social media, sharing thoughts and ideas on any subject is much easier than it ever was before. But that’s not the only (or the most important) takeaway from the United Breaks Guitars story. The thing we need to remember from Dave Carroll’s success is actually a lot more basic:

Amazingly good content is easy to spread.

If Dave’s song had been boring, or if he’d just posted a tweet or two that said “United broke my guitar and won’t pay up,” I bet you dollars to doughnuts he wouldn’t have gotten very much traction for his message — no matter how many social media channels he employed.

After all, in social media, the downside of access is noise. There’s a lot more out there to see and to read than ever before. And just because you say something on Twitter or put a video on YouTube, it doesn’t mean that anyone is going to pay attention. Your message has to be both worth hearing and presented in a compelling way.

Getting the message out there is the easy part.  It’s expressing yourself amazingly well that’s difficult.

Dave Carroll figured out how to combine talent and channel to make his message stand out. Because social media exists, he captured a bigger audience for his story than he ever could have before. But the reason the story continues to spread is because he tells it so darn well.

How can you be like Dave? Consider all the ways you can improve your messages – and place them appropriately – to get them the attention they deserve.

Like the old Ella Fitzgerald (and later Fun Boy 3/Bananarama) song says:

“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it – and that’s what gets results.”

Photo: Dave Carroll Music

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One Response to “Spreading Your Message: A Lesson from United Breaks Guitars”

  1. Very well said, Debra! Love your thinking (as usual!)

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